Nov 25, 2015 | By Alec

3D bioprinting is doubtlessly the most important innovation to come out of the development of additive manufacturing. Though metal 3D printing is fantastic for industries everywhere, bioprinting actually has the ability to save thousands of lives. However, due to its complexity is still shrouded in mystery for most people, which is one of the reasons why the University of Wollongong’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials has decided to teach a free beginners online course accessible to all.

This four-week online course is all about offering a glimpse into the exiting world of bio 3D printing, sharing insights into what biocompatible materials can do to help doctors and surgeons revolutionize healthcare systems. The course is called "Bioprinting: 3D Printing Body Parts", and has been organized by Wollongong’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials and online learning platform FutureLearn.

The course itself will be taught by professor Gordon Wallace, a renowned scientist in the biomedical field, and he will take his students onto a journey through the concept of 3D printing, its medical applications and its future. As he explained, the 3D printing revolution has been taking place at a breakneck speed since the first bioinks were developed. ‘In the short time since, revolutionary scientific advances in 3D-printing technology and the development of amazing biomaterials, which can seamlessly integrate into the body, means we may be only a few years away from a time when every major hospital will contain 3D printing capabilities,’ he said. He went on to explain that this emerging field of biofabrication has been made possible by connections between technology and medicine – and is already leading to bionic implants and biocompatible artificial organs and tissue.

In short, there is plenty to talk about, but also plenty of room for people who know very little about 3D printing at all. ‘You may be aware of 3D printing or have seen low-cost 3D printers, which can create plastic toys, replicas and objects of your own design. But did you know that 3D printing is also enabling life-saving and transforming medical procedures, which were unthinkable a few years ago?’ the course website states. To support their innovations, they even refer to a recent case in which a baby boy was suffering from a breathing defect that was life-threatening. ‘A CT scan of the boy’s airways was used to 3D print a bio-sleeve, which was a perfect fit for his bronchus. The material used dissolves in the body, giving the boy’s bronchus time to grow strong, before disappearing, without the need for surgery,’ they say.

Course material will take participants through the story of that revolution and introduce them to commonly used techniques, materials, and of course many interesting case studies – 3D printed titanium hip implants made with laser sintering technology, facial masks made for transplant recipiants and of course bio-compatible lab-grown organs. It will even, to a small extent, offer participants a chance to touch the basics of 3D printing themselves. ‘This course will also equip and encourage you to become part of the story. You’ll be given guided opportunities to not only investigate the 3D printing facilities available to you, but to also design, potentially print and share your creations with your fellow learners,’ they state.

The course, which is perfect for high school graduates considering enrolling at Wollongong, will thus provide you with a fantastic taste of what biomedical engineering can achieve nowadays. ‘The opportunity to share with a global learning community the impact our research has on everyday lives was an exciting extension of who we are at UOW,’ said UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Eeva Leinonen. For more information about the course and joining it, go to the course’s webpage here.



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