Inkjet Printer Hacked To Make Biological Materials

Open source project shows how anyone can change an ordinary desktop printer to turn it into a machine to make cells and living things.

Emma Hutchings
Emma Hutchings on January 28, 2013.

A group from the biotech hackerspace BioCurious decided to play around with BioPrinting (printing with biological materials) and have written an Instructable to document their BioPrinter Community Project. It includes plans for anyone to build their own DIY BioPrinter by hacking an ordinary desktop printer.

BioPrinting has earned lots of attention, with the ability to print organs and other living material eliminating the need for organ transplants, etc. The printer is a ways off from printing, say, a kidney, but shows promise for an inexpensive breakthrough in the technology.

DIY BioPrinter Lets Anyone Print Living Material

The group details their first experiment after disassembling an abandoned HP 5150 inkjet printer to build their BioPrinter and prying open ink cartridges so they could fill them with something more interesting:

As our first real “bioprinting” experiment, we wanted to start with something simple, instead of jumping straight into printing with live cells. We decided to print with a solution of arabinose onto filter paper. Then we cut out the filter paper, and put it onto an agarose plate on which we had grown a lawn of E. coli that we had engineered to carry the pGLO plasmid… As a result, wherever we had printed arabinose on the filter paper, we now saw the E. coli light up green under UV light!

You can check out an introduction to BioPrinting at BioCurious below:

DIY BioPrinter