With large companies such as Organovo and Autodesk teaming up to fabricate living tissue, you might think that bioprinting is out of the scope of the average DIYer. But when it comes to technology, human ingenuity is an incredible thing, and just because you don’t own an expensive piece of a equipment doesn’t mean you can join the organic 3D-printing revolution. Thanks to a modification by Instructables member Patrik, an old abandoned HP5150 inkjet printer can be transformed into a DIY bioprinter.
First, Patrik and his team “undressed” the inkjet, removing the plastic covers and panels and rewiring the paper handling mechanism. Then they prepped the ink cartridges to be able to handle biological materials by opening the lid, removing the ink, and washing it out with distilled or deionized water. After a few printing test runs with just water to make sure the cartridges are completely free of ink, they were ready to add something “more interesting.”
For their first experiment, they chose to print a simple solution of arabinose onto filter paper. They cut the filter paper and placed it on an agarose plate where they had grown a lawn of E.coli that they had modified to carry the pGLO plasmid which carries the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) under the control of an arabinose-sensitive paper. Once they had printed onto the paper, they were able to the glowing green BioCurious eyeball logo they had added under UV light.
While the process still needs to be refined in order to create a sharper image, the set of instructions is the first step towards making an at-home bioprinter. Patrik suggests further trials with antibiotics or proteins to vary the pictures. At present, living cells might be too bulky for the machine to handle, but we expect it is only a matter of time before desktop 3D printers start churning out biomaterials for the home.