Skip to comments.Bioprinting human organs and tissue: Get ready for the great 3D printer debate
Posted on 01/29/2014 11:10:09 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
Because of rapid advances in 3D printing, the world is plunging towards ethical and political controversy fuelled by the use of the technology to generate living human tissue and organs.
Bioprinting will progress far faster than general understanding of the ramifications of the technology, according to analyst firm Gartner.
Last year researchers at Cornell University demonstrated an ear printer, and San Diego firm Organovo unveiled work on printing human livers, with scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland developing a way to print blobs of human embryonic stem cells.
Gartner research director Pete Basiliere said bioprinting initiatives are well-intentioned but raise questions about quality and control and the possible development of complex enhanced organs involving nonhuman cells.
"The day when 3D-bioprinted human organs are readily available is drawing closer, and will result in a complex debate involving a great many political, moral and financial interests," Basiliere said in a statement.
Even 3D printing of non-living medical devices, such as prosthetic limbs, could cause an explosion in demand for the technology over the next two years.
Outside the application of 3D printing in medicine, Gartner is forecasting that at least seven of the world's top 10 multichannel retailers will be using the technology by 2018.
Not only will they be employing 3D printing to generate custom stock orders but they'll be developing new business models for it.
As well as consumers buying printers to output their own products, 3D copying and printing services will also emerge for high-end parts, not only in plastics but in ceramics, stainless steel, and cobalt and titanium alloys.
However, businesses will pay a heavy price in intellectual property theft sparked by the spread of 3D printing. Gartner thinks worldwide it will cost at least $100bn annually by 2018.
"The very factors that foster innovation crowdsourcing, R&D pooling and funding of startups coupled with shorter product life cycles, provide a fertile ground for intellectual property theft using 3D printers," Basiliere said.
"Already, it's possible to 3D print many items, including toys, machine and automotive parts, and even weapons."
In the report 3D printing at the inflection point, Gartner argues that 3D printing could create an environment where businesses and their IP licensees will struggle to make money out of their inventions.
Does anyone think this is scary stuff?
I want to have an advanced discussion about this for a moment so please hear me out.
Look at what happened in world history as certain advances were made. Things that were once unusual, exotic and expensive became commonplace. Look at the tools we use today. Steel wrenches, hammers, anvils, screwdrivers... these things would have been considered expensive luxuries or tools only for the rare blacksmith in the 1700s.
In the early days of computers slow systems and software to run on them cost thousands of dollars to a home user. Now it’s a few hundred dollars for a thousand time the computing power.
It used to be that guns were high tech. Now the technology to make them, in general, is comparatively stone age to us. Metal tubes that shoot lead projectiles with gunpowder is simple to make and quite antiquated against nukes, cruse missiles, attack helicopters, and satellite/drone surveilance on a battlefield. A mere gun by itself is unremarkable.
Now, we enter 3D printing. It’s time to stretch our minds around the entirety of the industrial revolution now being “low tech.” If you need a PART, made of one material or only a couple of materials then 3D printing will be able to do it immediately and simply. Yes, this means that the jobs AND the intellectual property of mere PARTS will become nearly valueless compared to all of history up to now. You can lament it, but it’s going to happen. The result in general SHOULD be a net gain to mankind’s standard of living as making basic replacement parts for nearly everything in our lives becomes trivial. This opens up our time, focus and resources to concentrate on extremely high-tech items that you can’t make on a 3D printer.
It’s hard to say what the world will look like even 10 years from now with 3D printing, but like so much else today you have to change with the technology and the times. If you are a small parts manufacturer or a machinist that works for one you need an exit plan NOW or you need to be studying CAD and 3D printers and learning how to do your job all over again... and understanding that margins are about to get tighter as what you do may be possible on someone’s desk printer in a few years.
In short, it is not protecting the IP that matters. That is impossible. It is adjusting industries and business models to accept the fact that almost anyone can make a mere part. Open source parts for almost EVERYTHING will exist in a few decades which in theory will give rise to a quality of life improvement the world over.
It really seems unreal...crazy stuff that you could just have device “print” anything and everything. Could they print out clones of entire people?
Only if misused. Think about it: Getting an organ to replace one that has gone bad or been destroyed in an accident, crime or by illness that won’t require depressing your immune system because your body won’t reject it. Why? Because it will come from your cells. We’ll have become like the animal that can regrow its tail. At this rate, the children born today may live to be 200.
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One great use for these bio-printers will be printing skin.
The transplantation of faces will thankfully be a very short term phenomenon. Soon plastic surgeons will print new faces for the disfigured.
Serious scarring of the face cannot be well repaired by surgery. A full facial replacement will actually be easier to perform. Early on the full facial replacements will probably have little sensation. It would be hard to get used to having a numb face IMO.
Replacing other body parts that are mostly just skin should work well but will also suffer from lack of sensation. Numb but normal looking noses, ears and skin will be commonplace in a decade.
Replacement fingers, toes and entire hands and feet will follow. The bones will be mechanically functional but at first probably won’t be living tissue. The limiting factor will be the surgical skills needed to hook up the new body parts...fast robotic surgical machines will be needed.
I wonder just how young looking an 80yr old would be with a brand new face made of their own cells?
In a future world where everyone can be beautiful, will beauty mean much anymore?
2DV, Thanks for posting all these 3D printing articles.
I try to stay abreast of this topic and your postings make that easier :-)
It certainly is an interesting subject, isn’t it? I’m the furthest thing from a techie or mechanically inclined person, but these things fascinate me.
Perhaps you are not a techie, but it’s obvious you are a very bright guy.
Ever seen Metropolis?
A tide lifting all boats comes to mind.
However, there are certain considerations to be had. At the cutting edge of technological advancement, there will be opportunities that will only be available to a (highly) select few. The bleeding edge will literally be something from A Brave New World. For instance, medical technological developments will help everyone, but I simply do not see 3D printing being used to develop new organs for simply anyone. While printing skin will probably be made available, printing livers will most probably be out of reach for most. In today's world kind of similar to the difference between a simple skin graft versus high-level 'plastic' surgery. Related fields, but quite different.
Thus, there will be two (far more than two ...in my opinion more like 7 or 8) types of people, which brings back my earlier allusion to A Brave New World. The extremely rich will not be immortal, but they will have longer lives (probably up to 120 years), but more importantly, most of those lives will be at significantly more youthful levels than currently enjoyed (e.g. at 80 years old someone will seem to be 50 years old in terms of looks but importantly functionality). Any malfunctioning organs will be easily replaced, retinas changed, hearts replaced, etc. Then, to stick to the most basic 2-types, there will be a level where the average person will be getting medical assistance similar to what is available to a middle-income American living today. Which is not bad, considering that currently many do not get that (I am talking global), but still quite different from what the top echelon is getting (functional youth until late 90s, and medical care that would be considered miraculous today).
This will apply to next to everything. And while the bottom level will be much higher than they are today, I am quite curious as to the level of schism in society. For instance I see it all the time where I am ...a country where the vast majority are poor, but for those with money the lifestyle and opportunities can best be described as opulence. I drive a US$100,000 Mercedes coupe in a place where many walk, and it is not hard to see the looks coming my way every now and then. I strongly believe that the 'Arab Spring' nonsense is a forerunner of things that will be seen in the wealthier Sub-Saharan countries, in Latin America, in Emerging Asia ....you name it. In Brazil, in India, in China.
Anyways, this post is already much longer than I wanted it to be. I wait for the technological increases that are coming, and I strongly believe they will truly make the world a better place. However, it will be quite interesting to see what happens - especially considering human nature doesn't focus on what is good for them but rather what the 'other' person is getting, which is something I find truly stupid but unfortuntaely quite prevalent - anyways, interesting to see what happens when society is stratified into levels that are truly separate. Where the currency is not really money but rather time. Where the topmost echelon can live to 120, on average, with 90 of those years being at a functional level of 'youth,' while the lowest level 'only' gets really good healthcare (note: they should be happy, but will not be).
Not sure if this has been tried yet, but it seems like the potential for printing perfect $100 bills could wreak havoc...
i have to say i agree. i have spent a lot of time over the last few years reading on this tech. most people have no idea whats coming. this is, to use that vastly over used term...a game changer. i think the issue is people are expecting the one big thing...it wont be the one thing it is moving ahead on a thousand fronts. when you get your head around 3d printing wood, 3d printing metal, 3d printing organs, 3d printing food, 3d printing houses, 3d printing for moving planets...you start to see whats happening.
its hard to accept..3d printing wood WTF!!! but its plastic infused wood particles...its sands like wood, smells like wood, acts like wood...it is wood except it isnt...by way of example, both ikea and lego are reviewing this tech. what i found interesting is when they recently 3d printed the food, a lot of my friends said i bet it tastes disgusting...they didnt ‘see’ what it meant. they are now speculating in a famine or disaster in the future air dropping 3d printers...you would supply the raw materials and print what you need. so if you need a spanner, put in the ‘metal’ and the plans and print, then if you want food change the ‘printer cartridge’ and print food. now keep in mind that level of 3d printer is not here yet...but its coming. we have an 8 year old and a 2 year old. both my wife and myself have discussed what do they need education wise...the answer is IMHO, if its anything to do with manufacturing, that market, its risky, is so unpredictable at the moment. it is going to change. of course i understand our son and daughter will do what they will but as a parent, its tricky stuff. will you still have huge plants producing stuff , of course you will, but there is now for the first time in history the ability of producing WHATEVER you need on your own. all joking aside, its a preppers paradise. for example they are now thinking of 3d printing on mars, yes mars the planet. so rather then goto to mars you send robots and printers that configure the living quarters for you. from a shipping of weight (the big cost), if you can somehow process material on the ground while using 3d printing techniques, your astronauts would arrive to built living quarters. the organ part is amazing. they take raw material from you, say blood , fatty tissue etc, and print a heart, a kidney, a liver....no rejection issues, the raw materials are from you. if you have a spare hour, just search on this, it is jaw dropping and i dont use those words lightly either. honestly an afternoon avid reading on 3d printing....and you will see the potential. its in its infancy at the moment..the texas guy who printed the guns, look at his videos...first lower receiver was 1 round before disintegration, a few versions later they were at 10 rounds before disintegration. the last i saw was 600 rounds and they gave up. the receiver was working. now again the printer he was using was like 20k’s worth if i remember correctly. how long will it be that price, you are already seeing carbon fibre and kevlar infused printing. i seem to recall the kevlar lower receiver had a truck drive over it and still worked...try that with your metal one!! trying to pass laws to contain this is like standing on the ocean trying to stop the waves. also its not all about IP rights, you will see lower receivers soon in shapes people didnt even conceive possible. also i would check out the latest VR headsets, yes they are influencing it. there is one i saw recently where (and its all prototype simple shapes) but you design a flower pot with your hands via the vr headset and ‘lift’ your virtual image to your 3d printer and it prints your design... now if course again its in it infancy...but image just for a sec...you got a company with the design and interface skills of apple (relax i use android as well!) working with 3d printers... honestly i think CAD will be used by engineers but the explosion will happen in the living room. people will earn like the open source do now. free up your design and get donations by those who like it. its easy to scoff and i can understand why people would...there is a group of people who believe this point in history is fast approaching called the ‘singularity’ that is when all of this technology intertwines, robotics, artificial intelligence, you name it. now i happen to think some of this is a little far fetched some days...but read about it. read about transhumanism, that is creepy. (our old friend al gore is in this by the way and yes you now understand its creepy). some of these people are discussing ‘downloading’ grandmas brain into a computer so shes there if you need her. they think this is eternal life by the way. (you will see why a lot of people want religion to be dismissed). it reads like a science fiction book but the example i always use (which i read somewhere), the comms device captain kirk had, that was the flip phone from 15 years or so ago...if that hasnt shocked you into reading about it, it should...either way, if like us you have kids, you are doing them a disservice if you dont read up on this. all those degress and phd’s the masses have now, IMHO not worth the paper they are written on. read ray kurzweil. he is googles futurist, read what they are planning on your smart phone, a phone that listens to everything, email, twitter, your meetings and makes recommendations. how is that going to affect business in the future (by the way with the word future you need to be thinking 5 to 10 years) why is amazon building all of its facilities with robotics in mind? suppose they could print those drones so cheaply the cost is so low they dont care if they loose them? why would you need amazon if you can print? kurzweil has a website kurzweilai.com (i think, search for it) ....just scan that and also read the comments...because there is a huge set of moral dilemmas about to appear...an example, if you cant afford the healthcare for grandma, the grandma you love, after all she is dying of that terrible disease, would you take an option of being able to talk with grandma any time you like by downloading her into a computer ? is it fair your kids who are too young to know grandma should be denied that? what rights do you have to decide or grandma? what if you still exist, your collective memories have been downloaded...which one is you? do you really need that disintegrating meat you reside in? if you have no belief in a soul, that question and that answer becomes very very tricky...i know what you are thinking this is drug induced...the bad news for you my fellow freeper is...it isnt...and if you dont believe me and i truly understand why you would think i am on meds...go read..3d printing is one small edge of whats going on...and that on its own is a game changer...
here is the link not .com http://kurzweilai.net/ apologies
Good post: especially the note on prepping.
Perhaps one day 3D printers will be able to print paragraph breaks :0)
LOL...good one, no AI anywhere can cut to the point like a freeper...HAHAHAHA
But, hey, I could be wrong.
The flip side is cottage industry custom manufacturing shops.
An unemployed old design engineer teams up with an old unemployed shop guy and a young unemployed guy or two and set up shop in a low rent old store front.
They take orders over the internet and ship all over the world custom crafted prototypes.
I can grock it
So far, the size and inability to print more than one item per machine at a time are the barriers to this becoming a cottage industry for more than parts.
I think I have already seen printers that have multiple printing beds, so that barrier will be the first to fall. The size problem leads designers of inanimate objects to begin thinking in modules. You could print multiple tiles, for example, and then put them together to create whatever.
The jobs, though, will be in the software production, IMO.
I say this as someone who has spent my life in limited production of my own handmade designs in several media. IMO, the manufacturer must own something, either the process, materials or some unique aspect of the design.
As prices for a complete shop, including a laser scanner and multiple machines or a multiple bed machine, fall, the race will go to those capable of innovation the machines and the materials.
This is early days.
This may well yank the rug out from under the “Made in China” problem.
If that's true, then what incentive is there to inventing new things and ideas?
I should have added an example to my question, so here, belatedly, it is:
Why should any company invest in advancing 3D printer technology by committing time and money to research and development of better printers if they can simply take it for free in a few years?
I know, it is counterintuitive...
But your same argument would apply to the internet. Why invest in internet infrastructure if it will end up making information that everyone has to pay dearly for now... not have to do that?
Why invest in advancing metal production if everyone can buy a 100 pack of razors for $10 when each hand crafted razor is worth $100 now?
There is money to be made, just not on the end it has been made on. Complete complex products will still be needed and that demand will never go away in our lifetimes. But simple items? Maybe there will be no market at all for single-material products in 30-50 years. You’ll just punch up a free design number from the internet for any one of a trillion items...
This is a mental exercise about as difficult as sitting around 25 years ago and trying to accurately imagine what we would be using the internet for today. The changes will be that vast. Back then, if you couldn’t get it in a library... ? Or instant ordering of almost anything on earth through Amazon? The internet has been a net gain for the world, even if it has caused horrible disruption and growing pains in certain areas. 3D printing will be the same way.
You’ve either purposely, or accidently avoided answering the question.
You say there will be money to be made, but not on the end it’s made on now. That’s nonsense, as there are no ‘ends’ unless something is invented first. Without an ‘end’ no money will be made by anyone.
The basic laws of economics can’t be changed, something the argument is trying to do.
To answer one of your challenges; “Why invest in advancing metal production if everyone can buy a 100 pack of razors for $10 when each hand crafted razor is worth $100 now?”
Today, that inventor who creates a way to manufacture that 100 pack at a price which can be profitable is rewarded with a sum that reflects the ingenuity of his creation. If he can get the cost down a little below that $10 then he get a little compensation. However if he gets the price significantly below $10 he has the opportunity to be handsomely compensated.
Under the system you describe, we don’t know how he will be compensated, and that’s understandable. However, he must be compensated, otherwise he won’t create a way to manufacture those blades more economically.
I would envision a system not unlike what we have with media now. When a product is first designed and released it will likely be on a protected type of “one download one use” thing. Just like music and other info now, sooner or later it stops being new and hot and makes its way onto everyone’s hard disk. Or someone reverse engineers the dimensions and makes a free version.
I can also envision groups of designers producing entirely IP free things... like an open source engine. You print it out of metal... the design is free. You might actually start to see MORE interchangable car parts (just a wild example) as people settle on good free standard part designs.
I’m just throwing theory around here.
It will be easy to design and make the parts at some point. The money is going to be in the printers and the raw materials.
Surely you aren’t trying to say that people in the media today do their jobs for no compensation, are you?
If they do, things will change, and according to the laws of economics, in the future they will be forced to demand compensation.
The ability to print tissue from cultures may allow us to transplant organs built from tissue samples from living relatives, instead of cadavers or subjecting kin to invasive surgery.
And the ability to transplant from organs built from stem cells could mean replacement organs from your own tissue, assuming you don’t have HIV or Hepatitis, so no rejection. And such transplants are an option even in a post-antibiotic world.
return ping gleeaikin. Are we talking zer0?