Bacteria’s at the core of this 3D-printed living ink that could become your skin

The range of objects emerging from 3D printers these days is already quite expansive, but generally, they share one thing in common — the “ink” used in these printing processes is dead. More accurately, it was never alive. But there’s a new 3D printing application that bucks this trend. It’s a new living ink of sorts, and it depends upon bacteria.

As per research published in the journal Science, a team at ETH Zurich led by Professor André Studart has found developed a “3D printing platform that works using living matter.” The bacteria-laden ink allowed researchers to produce “mini biochemical factories with certain properties, depending on which species of bacteria the scientists put in the ink,” and that could mean 3D printing personalized skin in the future.

Called “Flink,” which is an acronym for “functional living ink,” this new ink is comprised of a hydrogel mixed with bacteria and nutrients needed to feed said bacteria. The challenge in creating the ink was finding the right texture — too stiff and the bacteria can’t move around, lessening their effectiveness at secreting certain useful compounds. On the other hand, if it’s too thin, the printed products wouldn’t be able to maintain their shapes. Ultimately, the team noted, “The ink must be as viscous as toothpaste and have the consistency of Nivea hand cream.”

The bacteria used in the experiment were Pseudomonas putida, which breaks down toxic chemicals, and Acetobacter xylinumin, which secretes nanocellulose, which can relieve pain and retain moisture. That means it could be a useful tool in treating burns. Depending on the kinds of bacteria used in the ink, ETH researchers found that they could print objects that boasted different properties.

For example, we could one day print a “bacteria-containing 3D-printed sensor that could detect toxins in drinking water,” or a bacteria-containing filter that could help clean up oil spills. That said, it’ll still take some time to address the challenges associated with 3D printing as a whole. This includes how long it takes for printing to take place, and consequently, how difficult these solutions are to scale.

“Printing using bacteria-containing hydrogels has enormous potential, as there is such a wide range of useful bacteria out there,” the ETH team noted in a release. “Most people only associate bacteria with diseases, but we actually couldn’t survive without bacteria.” Look out world — you could soon be printing with bacteria all the livelong day.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

Do you have questions about Hulu? We’ve got answers

Not sure which Hulu subscription is right for you? We're here to help. This is your complete guide to Hulu and Hulu with Live TV, including content offerings for each service, pricing, internet requirements, and more.
Emerging Tech

3D-printed paste could hold buildings together amid natural disasters

A 3D-printed cement paste could one day be used to make buildings more resilient to natural disasters. That's because, as crazy as it sounds, it actually gets tougher the more it cracks.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how scientists read a charred 16th-century scroll without unraveling it

What do you do when you’re a historian trying to recover information from a severely damaged 16th-century scroll that’s darn near unreadable? You turn to cutting-edge technology, of course.
Emerging Tech

New ‘parkour’ video shows Boston Dynamics robot training to overthrow humanity

Robots doing backflips? That's so 2017! In its latest jaw-dropping YouTube video, Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot pulls off some frankly astonishing parkour stunts for our viewing pleasure.
Emerging Tech

With VR dinosaurs and ‘Minecraft,’ one hospital is making medicine less scary

From augmented reality rabbits on the wards to a Minecraft recreation of the hospital for kids to explore, one of the world's most renowned children's hospitals just got a major tech overhaul.
Emerging Tech

Will we ever fly supersonic again? Unraveling the concorde’s complex legacy

In a new book, Last Days of the Concorde, journalist and author Samme Chittum delves into the mindset that inspired engineers to design this marvel, the series of events that led to its fatal crash, and the possibility that commercial SSTs…
Emerging Tech

Check out the British Army’s beefy new bomb-disposal robot

The British Army is about to get an impressive new explosive ordnance disposal robot that is able to climb stairs, negotiate slopes, cut wires, and … oh, yes, dispose of bombs, too.
Emerging Tech

Kill it before it lays eggs! Crazy 32-leg robot moves like a cyborg sea urchin

We’ve seen one-legged, two-legged, four-legged and even six-legged robots, but researchers from Japan have gone way, way further with their latest project: A 32-legged robot. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Leafy greens are grown by machines at new, automated Silicon Valley farm

Farming hasn't changed too much for hundreds of years. Now a new startup called Iron Ox has opened its first automated hydroponics farm, producing a variety of leafy greens tended by machines.
Gaming

As deaf gamers speak up, game studios are finally listening to those who can’t

Using social media, personal blogs and Twitch, a small group of deaf and hard-of-hearing players have been working to make their voices heard and improve accessibility in the gaming industry.
Emerging Tech

From flying for fun to pro filmmaking, these are the best drones you can buy

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.