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Need a new ear, nose, or patella? This new 3D printer can create bones and soft tissue

If you were to pick one emerging technology with the potential to have a massive positive impact on humanity in the coming years, there’s a good chance you’d go with 3D bioprinting.

The ability to use “bio-ink” to print out biomaterials ranging from heart tissues to bone and cartilage is incredibly exciting — although at present it’s not exactly the most user-friendly of tech.

One company hoping to change that is Cellink, which this week has announced the launch of its new Bio X printer, which it hopes will bring 3D bioprinting to a whole new audience.

“This is an industry that’s really started to grow in just the last couple of years,” CEO and co-founder Erik Gatenholm told Digital Trends. “What Bio X allows researchers and end-users to do is to print tissue. It lets them get into 3D bioprinting at an advanced level and at a relatively low cost. This technology can be used for the development of cosmetic products, pharmaceutical products, and more. We’re heading toward a world where we’re reducing the need for animal trials — and that’s going to have a massive impact. We’re excited to be part of it.”

Bio X is designed to be as straightforward to use as possible. Operating the printer can be done via a touch display, while the high-end internals allow users to control both temperature and extrusion methods in order to optimize whatever process they are printing.

As Gatenholm noted, there are plenty of potential applications, but one that he is most enthused about involves cutting-edge drug research.

“One of the applications we’re most excited about is standardized tissues, meaning the ability to print an identical tissue over and over again,” he continued. “For example, if you’re developing drugs for treating cancer, you want to be able to print the same tumor hundreds of times, because that allows you to test a wide range of medications on it.”

The printer is currently available for pre-order at a price of $39,000, putting it at a price point that’s above those of the Inkredible and Inkredible+ printers that Cellink already manufactures. However, it’s reasonably affordable for a technology that was unthinkable even just a few short years ago — and should help put it within reach of research labs and universities around the world.

“What we’re trying to do with this pre-launch is to work very closely with our early adopters,” Gatenholm said. “The 25 first units we sell, we will do a personal installation, complete with a workshop to train the scientists at that particular institution. We want to avoid a situation where we’re simply shipping machines; we want to be part of this journey — both in teaching and learning from our partners.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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