Oct 21, 2017 | By Julia

As we enter the age of affordable desktop 3D printing, one company is keen to show that inexpensive bioprinting is the next logical step. An American startup by the name of 3D Cultures has just released the Tissue Scribe 3D bioprinter, a desktop system equipped for printing bio-materials in research labs, classrooms, and even at home. Priced at $999, the Tissue Scribe is notable for its relatively cheap price tag, but even more striking is the fact that this bioprinter is literally built from a desktop 3D printer.

“Built” is even a bit of an exaggeration here. The 3D Cultures team has simply rebranded the popular beginner desktop 3D printer Monoprice Select Mini by placing stickers over the original logos. Other alterations include removal of the original system’s extruder and hotend, which have been replaced with a device for heating and depressing a standard syringe.

As 3D bioprinters become more and more of a necessity in learning environments, 3D Cultures sees itself as simply catering to that demand. “We at 3D Cultures are trying to make [affordable bioprinting] a reality by developing an economical bioprinter for the avid user,” the company explains on its website. “We understand that many of us do not need the advanced precision (nanometers) or tons of sensors on a printer. A simple printer is sometimes all that is needed!”

Quite frankly, they have a fair point. The only essential difference between bioprinting and 3D printing is the materials being used: whereas 3D printing uses molten plastic, bioprinting relies on organic materials such as collagen or algae. Thus in the Tissue Scribe, the original printer hotend has been replaced with a syringe loaded with organic materials, which gets slowly depressed by a NEMA 17 stepper motor and 8mm lead screw. The rest of the Monoprice Select Mini, including the heating element and thermistor, get to remain intact and voilà! A beginner 3D printer becomes a fully functional 3D bioprinter.

Though it’s easy to label 3D Cultures as cheaters and frauds, the lines become blurred when you consider the direction of the 3D printing industry and maker culture at large. With 3D printing software pretty much always made open-source, the hardware generally standardized, and many desktop printers coming out at under $300 nowadays, it’s not a stretch that someone would capitalize on those factors and create a new product out of an already established system. Whether other bioprinting companies follow suit remains to be seen, but if the Tissue Scribe is commercially successful, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t see some competition.

Check out the full specs of 3D Culture’s Tissue Scribe 3D bioprinter here.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer

 

 

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