The next step in the 3D printing revolution may be body parts including cartilage, bone and even skin.
Three-dimensional printing is a technique for making solid objects with devices not unlike a computer printer, building up line by line, and then vertically layer by layer.
While the approach works with polymers and plastics, the raw ingredients of 3D printing have been recently branching out significantly.
The printers have been co-opted even to make foods, and do-it-yourself biology experiments dubbed "garage biotech" - and has most recently been employed to repair a casting of Rodin's sculpture The Thinker that was damaged in a botched robbery.
But at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington DC, the buzzword is bioprinting: using the same technique to artfully knock out new body parts. ...
James Yoo, of the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University, told the meeting of his group's aim to print skin directly onto burn victims.
"What motivated us to start this programme and development is the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.
"Up to 30% of all injuries and casualties that occur from the war involve the skin, and using bioprinting we thought that we could address some of the challenges they're facing with burn care."
Professor Yoo's group is developing a portable system that can be brought directly to burn victims.
"What's unique about this device is that it has a scanner system that can identify the extent and depth of the wound, because every wound is different," he said. ...
via BBC News - 'Printing out' new ears and skin.
The article goes on to say that the next big challenge will be connecting all the blood vessels and so on in the real body to the new printed part, but this will happen and the technology will one day be mainstream.