Bioprinting is emerging as a prime innovation in the medical technology field. However, despite its potential, the industry still grapples with challenges, like precision-speed balance, material sourcing, and anatomical complexities. Amidst these challenges, companies like Vital 3D are leading the charge, introducing pioneering solutions to reshape the future of bioprinting.
The field of medical technology is always advancing, and 3D bioprinting has become a standout innovation. As of 2022, this field has already reached a market value of USD 2 billion, and it is projected to grow at a rate of 12.5% between 2023 and 2030. This momentum is caused by several critical factors: the shortage of organ donors, a global elderly population struggling with chronic illnesses, heightened R&D commitments, and progressive tech advancements.
However, as with any breakthrough technology, the path isn’t without its share of bumps. The industry is facing several challenges, such as optimizing printing speeds, sourcing the requisite materials, and navigating the complexities inherent to human anatomy.
Challenges in the bioprinting landscape
The main concern in the bioprinting space is the balance between speed and precision. The industry struggles, having to choose between fast yet potentially imprecise technologies or the opposite.
The complexities of human anatomy add another layer to this challenge. For instance, when it comes to the human kidney, the extensive vascular network, which stretches an estimated 100 to 150 kilometers, underscores the monumental challenge of achieving the necessary vascularization. Vidmantas Šakalys, Chief Executive Officer of Vital 3D, a biotechnology company, said: “The necessity for precision in reproducing these complex structures has us often at a crossroads between speed and accuracy. Current technologies may excel in one but compromise the other. Even the most advanced bio-printers capable of the requisite intricate detailing can take up to two weeks to print, a duration largely incompatible when dealing with live cells.”
Additionally, bio-printing isn’t solely focused on crafting the ideal design; it’s equally about sourcing suitable materials. While suitable materials for the organs themselves are challenging to find, acquiring the necessary parts for the printers can also be a hurdle. Printer parts can take 9-12 months to produce, making it difficult to mass-produce the printers themselves.
A leap in 3D printing technology
Weighing in on these industry challenges, Vidmantas Šakalys, said: “Turning to light was a natural choice to tackle bio-printing challenges since light is a fundamental element in the vitality chain. Yet, as advanced as laser technology is, the reliance on femtoseconds in printing is painstakingly slow, illustrating the inherent challenges of the field. This very challenge inspired the development of FemtoBrush.”
Currently, under patent consideration, FemtoBrush brings a fresh perspective to 3D printing with its capability to dynamically adjust the laser beam shape, thanks to its innovative design featuring the Spatial Light Modulator.
It can adeptly alter and twist voxels in 3D instantly, giving it the adaptability akin to a painter’s brush or an artist’s pencil. The technology boasts adaptability and precision down to 1 micron, all while maintaining rapid printing speeds.
Vidmantas Šakalys commented: “This innovation aspires to revolutionize printing, to potentially accurately render a kidney’s extensive vascular network—spanning 100 to 150 kilometers—in just 24 hours.”
This sentiment underscores how FemtoBrush not only addresses existing technological constraints but also propels the entire bio-printing process forward.