Advancement of 3D Bio Printing

Thomas Bui(


3D printing has shown great promise and has the potential to become the future of creating biomaterials. 3D printing works by first taking an MRI or CT scan that provides the exact dimensions of the tissue that is being replaced. Next, a blueprint is generated by creating a virtual design of the item he or she wants to create. The virtual design can be created in many programs but Computer Aided Design, also known as CAD, works the best. Next, organs are printed out that “mimic the natural biological process of embryonic cellular fusion”. The material then comes out of the nozzle of the printer as a liquid that has the consistency of gel toothpaste. At first, 3D printing was extremely expensive and only a select few could afford to buy them. However, the prices have become much cheaper and more available to the public. Because of this, there have been many newfound uses for 3D printing. This could not only save money, but it could also potentially save lives.


Kidney transplants are expensive and results may even contain side effects. My uncle, now 60, has had two kidney transplants. Every time he goes into surgery, it costs a great deal of money and he still has side effects from it. In 2011, the average cost of transplantation ranged from around 262,000 dollars for a single kidney. Furthermore, the process in order to receive an organ takes great time. Firstly, the patient must go through a diagnosis for what the disease is in their kidney. Secondly, the patient must get a referral from a physician and then schedule an evaluation appointment. Lastly, he or she has to be deemed suitable as a transplant candidate. Being able to 3D print kidneys would be able to shorten this process greatly. There are at least approximately 113,000 Americans are on an organ transplant waiting list each year. However, according to the Rutgers Law Review Article, “only 30,000 transplants are performed in America every year” [1]. Even if one is on the list, it is not a guarantee that they will receive a kidney. Due to this, there are around 4,000 annual kidney-related deaths.


But, with the uses of Bio-Ink, 3D printing will become a cheaper alternative and be able to save many more lives. Furthermore, printed organs would bypass the need for “immunosuppressant’s that both prevent the body from rejecting alien organs and cause many post-transplant complications”[2]. As of now, the costs for printing materials are still quite expensive such as bio-printing kidneys which cost around 280,000 dollars each. However, in the future, the prices are projected to reduce greatly. Firstly, for example, in 2008, the average minimum price for a 3D printer was 15,000 dollars. Now, the prices have dropped greatly to a minimum of 500 dollars. Lastly, the magnitude of 3D printing will be much larger. A larger market means more competition between companies which in turns allows for cheaper and more accessible market parts and repairs. Due to this, prices will continue to drop for bio printers and biomaterials. By 2030, the price for a bio printed kidney will go for 120,000 dollars or less which is a 53 percent decrease. In the future, 3D printing biomaterials for kidneys will become a feasible market and be a more suitable alternative to organ donors.


Based on the statistics behind this leap in technologic innovation, between the year 2004 and 2013, the occupant fatality rates per 100,000 registered vehicles dropped for both passenger and SUV cars from 15 to 9 deaths thanks to today's modern collision avoidance systems. [5] Although this development in automotive safety is proven to be very effective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSB) claims that in 2014 only 4 of 684 passenger vehicles included a complete forward collision avoidance system as a base model feature which means that there is a desire to make this important add-on a standard in all of today's cars in order to drive down the price and thus save even more lives in the long run. [6] In the end, the introduction of Active Safety Technology truly marked a leap in automotive safety design as cars went from making suggestions to the driver, to making decisions for itself in order to protect the driver and its passengers in hazardous situations.


Furthermore, when people have kidney failures, it may be a result of diabetes known as Diabetic Nephropathy. Researchers have begun to discover a way to bio print a glucose-sensitive pancreatic organ. This would be extremely useful, especially in America, where the percentage of people that have diabetes is extremely high. Type 1 diabetes is a form of diabetes in which the body is not able to produce insulin. However, patients can get a “pancreatic islet transplantation” which allows cells to be transplanted from the pancreas of a healthy donor. Though not as expensive as a kidney transplant, it would still cost the patient around 20,000 dollars. Despite this, there is also a great side effect from the treatment. A patient must be required to undergo ongoing “doses of immunosuppressant drugs”. These drugs prevent the patient’s body from attacking the foreign, transplanted cells. [3] In addition to this, this procedure runs the risks of bleeding and blood clots. The transplanted islets may not function well or may not function at all. Only 50 percent of the recipients were able to stop taking insulin for fourteen days. But in the long run, the patients had to start taking insulin once again and were dependent on it. One reason is that the loss of islet vasculature results “in a reduced nutrient and oxygen supply after transplantation”. Lastly, toxins and drugs, which are processed in the liver, cause more islet mass decay. [4]


As a future engineer, I believe that there should be more engineers that should focus on printing biomaterials. Bio printing has shown great promise. But, as of now there are not that many companies that are doing research in this field of engineering. Despite the positive results, the new bio plotting technique is hampered by the scarcity of suitable biomaterials. Despite the current cost to print a kidney, all data shows that the prices will only decrease in the future. Having an uncle with kidney failures and another uncle with Type 1 Diabetes, this is very important to me. Not only would it help make them live longer, but it would let them live a healthier lifestyle and this research would help thousands of people in the future. For example, in 2010, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United states while kidney was the 9th leading cause of death.
If both research projects were to be fully functioning in the next five years, it would save thousands of lives. Furthermore, the amount of money spent on diabetes and kidney disease is outrageous. Medicare spends nearly 28.6 billion dollars to treat people with kidney failure while the economic cost of diagnosed diabetes is 245 billion dollars. These numbers will eventually become unstainable in the future especially with the current debt crisis. However, if money is invested into 3D printing biomaterials now, it will save everybody a great deal of money.


  1. S. Sullivan (2012, Dec 31) “Employer challenges with the chronic kidney disease population” National Kidney Foundation (online article)
  2. J. Funk (2013, Nov 21) “3D Bio-Printing; Becoming Economically Feasible” Organovo (online article)
  3. M. Ozieh (2014, Oct 1) “Trends in Health Care Expenditure in U.S Aduls With Diabetes” Diabetes Association (online article)
  4. S. Andriulo, M.G. Gnoni. (2014) "Measuring the effectiveness of a near-miss management system: An application in an automotive firm supplier." Reliability Engineering & System Safety. (Print article). Vol. 132 pp.154-162
  5. M. Militch-Hou (2015, April 21) “Oragnovo Announces Its First 3D Bioprinted Kidney Tissue” (online article)
  6. G. Marchioli (2015, May 28) “Fabrication of three-dimensional bioplotted hydrogel scaffolds for islets of Langerhans transplantation” IOPscience (online article)


I would like to thank my cousin, Anderson Ta, for helping me do research on this topic.