3D Printing Application in Biology

This blog post examines the article "Grown, Printed, and Biologically Augmented: An Additively Manufactured Microfluidic Wearable, Functionally Templated for Synthetic Microbes" (pdf available here!) and considers the applications of digital fabrication in the field of biology.

While exploring Los Angeles County's Central Library over break (highly highly recommend making the trip if you ever get the chance to---their collection is amazing!) I came across Architectural Design's 3D-Printed Body Architecture, where I first read about this project. I was intrigued and so I went to find the original article.

The article details the project Mushtari---"a multimaterial fluidic wearable designed to culture microbial communities" (Bader et al). The project was set up in three distinct steps--growing, printing, and augmenting. Growth patterns of Mushtari were calculated in visualized in 100 iterations. When printing, it became important that the structure to contain fluid was geometrically complex and materially heterogenous. This was achieved by using a voxel-based 3D printing technique (this allows for hybrid models with intermediate properties instead of the usual layer-by-layer type of printing). In terms of synthetic biology, Mushtari acted as a host environment of a microbial community that would tailor to both phototrophic and heterotrophic organisms (the experiment used E. coli and B subtilis). The study found some difficulty in limiting leakage and suggests that raising resolution in 3D printers would further help with the reproduction of selectively permeable membranes.

This novel project intersecting design, digital fabrication, and synthetic biology is an exciting work that illustrates the possible applications of 3D printing. Reading along, my mind struggles to keep up--why is there a need for a growth model? How does multimaterial 3D printing work? Can the gastrointestinal tract be replicated through 3D printing? Although I am still having trouble imagining wearing Mushtari, I find the project fascinating and would like to see where future projects would take us.

Works Cited:

Bader C, Patrick W, Kolb D, Hays S, Keating S, Sharma S, Dikovsky D, Belocon B, Weaver J, Silver P, and Oxman N. "Grown, Printed and Biologically Augmented: An Additively Manufacture Microfluidic Wearable, Functionally Templated for Synthetic Microbes." 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing. Vol 3. pp79-89.

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