LulzBot has already brought a revolutionary product into the bioprinting arena. The first Fresh Certified 3d bioprinter is in the market under the brand name ‘LulzBot’. The company is in the additive manufacturing market since 2011 with 3d printers; however, has already taken the first mover advantage with its open source 3d bioprinting device.
What is 3d Bio-Printing
3d bioprinting refers to the construction of 3d function within the live tissue. The biomaterial used for 3d bioprinting is known as Bioinks. The application primarily is to make tissue or other organs within the live tissues for medical advancement & invention. Everyone believes that 3d bioprinters will take drug developments and tissue engineering to the next level.
About LulzBot’s 3d bioprinter
The LulzBot Bio is positioned to be the most affordable way to start bioprinting. With most competitors in the 25k starting price range. However, The price varies depending on the specifications and other qualitative issues.
What Makes LulzBot Bio Special
The LulzBot Bio is a FRESH (Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels) Certified bioprinter. A lightweight and compact machine, weighing only 9kg and easily fitting into laminar flow cabinets. With an Open Hardware design, users can make modifications to the printer itself or to any materials they wish to print.
Out of the box users can immediately print unmodified collagen, alginate, and other soft materials. With an ultra-precise syringe pump extruder capable of 50 μm layer resolution, the LulzBot Bio is ready for a wide variety of bioprinting applications, from multi-scale vasculature to functional heart tissue and more.
The LulzBot Bio, like all LulzBot machines, is compatible with CURA LulzBot Edition (CURA LE), a free slicing software readily available from the LulzBot website. CURA LE has pre-installed profiles for both syringe sizes and common materials a user would need.
Furthermore, LulzBot Bio is the Only FRESH-certified bioprinter as of today. While developing the device, they made many iterations of the machine before getting the Syringe Clamp correct. It was great to use additive manufacturing for most of the parts that make up the machine. This allowed for rapid development.
After installing and prepping materials supplied with the LulzBot Bio, a user is then ready to print their first coronary artery tree. CURA LE has many capabilities for beginners and advanced users alike. By having printing profiles already available LulzBot is determined to make sure any user, no matter their skill level, can begin their printing process as easy as possible.
The technical specifications are as follows:
|Build volume||160 x 160 x 89mm|
|Dimension of the Machine||457 x 339 x 495mm|
|X-Y-Z precision||10, 10, 5µm|
|Maximum print bed temperature||120°C|
|Minimum layer thickness||50µm|
|Minimum feature size||80µm|
|Connectivity methods||USB/SD card|
The build volume of the LulzBot’s bioprinter is 160 x 160 x 89mm which gives sufficient space for bioengineering activities. 762 x 635 x 533mm of operating footprint ensures that the printer fits fine either inside the cabinet or on top of the counter. Besides, the metal frame makes it sturdy and easier to make sterilized.
Supporting Features & User Interface
Furthermore, the borosilicate glass print build plate can heat up to 120°C for maximum utility. It also allows taking full control while bioprinting is in progress. A 4.3” completely colored touch screen with a multilingual operating interface is also available. I liked the multilingual system that gives ultimate productivity freedom to scientists and bio-engineering enthusiasts from different countries.
The user interface is so responsive and smart with connectivity compatibility of USB and SD cards primarily.
However, the interface does not have any cloud-based operating system as of today.
The LulzBot bio may look like an FDM printer; however, the extruder head is different than that of the FDM printers. There is a Syringe Pump Extruder that becomes compatible with 25 & 30-gauge dispensing needles and syringes of 2.5 ml, 5 ml, and 10 ml. It uses sodium alginate as a printing material with a syringe.
The bio offers a print volume of 2,278.4cm³ (138.9in³)with a maximum travel speed of 200 mm/sec. The print bed heats up to 23°C to 60°C (73°F to 140°F) in 97 seconds which is amazing.
The bio appears to have ready-to-print profiles that primarily address alginate and unmodified collagen but, the strategic analyst team of LulzBot has told us that they have way other plans for the upgradation in the future. However, the system also allows working with other fluid-based inks such as epoxy, thermosets, silicone, and photocurable.
Let’s see how sodium alginate and LifeSupport as a support material work together.
Primarily, 98 ml of distilled water and 2 grams of sodium alginate powder were added with 0.2g of alcian blue dye. A magnetic mixer helped the mixing process to achieve homogeneity for 3 hours. The life support hydro gel helped the bio-ink mixer to spread three-dimensionally within that. Around 35 ml of distilled water helps rehydrate LifeSupport powder at 4°C. You can also use the tube that comes within the LulzBot Bio. Just make sure that the powder fully rehydrates otherwise the 3d bioprinting won’t be accurate as advertised.
After bioprinting is done, LifeSupport hydro gel needs to be heated back to extract the 3d structure.
About The Slicer
Slicer is the operating system that any 3d printer uses. LulzBot has its own slicer ‘The Cura’ which is free and accessible to all who buy the printer. Like others, it has all the necessary slicing functions that a 3d printer uses to work professionally.
It appears that you can easily work with the syringe diameter, building container shape, container dimension, infill percentage, infill pattern, flow rate, and top bottom pattern, etc.
After extracting the user information, we estimate there will be a few more upgrades.
Here’s a CURA slicer image of the Coronary Artery
The slicer refers to the print profile of the right coronary artery with Sodium Alginate.
If you notice over the slicer settings, the best part is that the LulzBot Bio recommends both the default and the customized settings option.
You can separately work with the needle gauge and the internal diameter of the syringe which is currently set to 0.26 mm and 7.285 mm respectively.
Also, LulzBot Bio gives the ultimate freedom to customize X,Y and Z Axis along with the infill percentage.
While making the right coronary artery, the infill percentage was 15%; however, you can change such settings as per the need of the research.
In addition, customizing the flow rate, wall line count and the top and bottom layer is an asset.
Here’s another CURA Slicer settings image of LulzBot Bio
LulzBot has have the slicer settings for bioprinting of several materials setup by default. If the user would like to change it, they have the freedom to do so. Flow rate is one of the main settings as every bioink has a different viscosity and rheology.
Print Quality of LulzBot Bio
During the first trial, of printing the right coronary artery the quality deteriorated somewhat from what they had promised. However, the second trial of the heart valve print test was completely accurate with what it states.
We have examined the reason for the quality deterioration of the first trial of the right coronary artery. There was nothing wrong with the printer but, the mixture was not appropriately done.
The 3d printing of the coronary artery required two tubes of LifeSupports to build accurately. We must have to say, bioprinting is all about preparing the right mixture so that the extruder middle works freely and fine. There are significant risks that the mixture may go wrong and would require additional LifeSupports sometime to bring some awesome pieces of work.
What does it mean by Fresh Certification?
In one line, any Fresh Certified bioprinters are ready to print bioinks that are useful for tissue engineering that consists of working with unmodified collagen or any soft materials.
The word FRESH stands for Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels. It allows a bioprinter to work within a viscous gel temporarily.
And after the accomplishment of the bioprinting process, certified bioprinters can turn the print into liquid-freeing form.
Fresh is the only way of printing physiologically rational cells where the engineers can freely work with their tissue engineering.
It’s like working with real cells/tissue or organs.
Earlier, bioprinters did their job through printing on air. However, the process did not allow the researchers with ultimate freedom of making research with linve unmodified collagen.
The History of Bioprinting
After the development of 3d printers in 1980, Robert J. Klebe tried to print cells with inkjet printers in 1984. After that, the development of 3d bio printing was in a good pace and LulzBot made sure of the first 3d bioprinter launcher on the market.
How 3d bioprinting works?
Like the other FDM and Resin printers, the bioprinter also works on a layer-by-layer approach. instead of plastic filament or resin, it uses bioink to make tissues within the live object. It estimates adding value to the bioengineering and tissue engineering field with great hope of drug and cell development.
Here’s an infographic of 3d bioprinting:
Comparison of 3D Bioprinters
After inclusive research, here’s a short comparison of some prominent 3d bioprinters in the market.
|Life Printer X||Bio 3d Technologies||Extrusion (Nano Jetting)||Biomaterials||10 µm||1 - 400 mm s|
|BioScaffolder 2.1||GeSim||Pressure Driven||Hydrogel & Biopolymers||2 µm in XY, 10 µm in Z||100 mm (XY), 400 mm (Z)|
|Celljet Cell Printer||DigiLab||Extrusion||Biopolymers||1.5 µm & 10 µm||Unknown|
|3D Bioplotter||Envision TEC||Extrusion||Hydrogel||0.001 mm min||0.1 - 150 mm|
|LulzBot Bio||LulzBot||Extrusion||Hydrogel||50 µm||200 mm s|
LulzBot Bio uses a direct drive syringe pump whereas many competitors’ machines use pneumatic systems. This allows for much sharper resolutions as we don’t have the lag from the compressibility of air. Moreover, the Bio is the first FRESH-certified machine on the market.
Besides, LulzBot has over 11 years in the industry with designing and manufacturing 3D printers. This has made our machines robust in nature.
There are three stages of bioprinting. The pre bioprinting involves making a model which the bioprinter can produce later. Computer Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) contribute significantly to the pre-bioprinting stage by placing the layers of images of an organ.
the second stage is to print with the help of bioink and a bioprinter. This step results in making a three-dimensional structure of an organ of the body.
The post-bioprinting stage includes keeping the organ’s shape at a maximum level so that further analysis becomes accurate. The success of post-bioprinting highly depends on the chemical structure of the bio prints.
Like the other FDM printers, a bioprinter also has a different printing mechanism. For example, the Lulzbot bio is an Extrusion-based bioprinter.
Extrusion of a 3d printer gets the filament / raw material (bioink) and makes the structure with the nozzle (extrusion syringe).
However, there are again three types of extrusion and they are:
- Pneumatic Extrusion: It works through pressurizing air to push the bioink with the nozzle.
- Piston Driven: Such an extrusion system squeezes the bioinks through the linear motion of the piston.
- Screw Driven: This extrusion system makes use of auger screw to extrude the bioinks or raw material.
Apart from the extrusion technology, there is another term, Droplet-Based Bioprinting.
This mechanism hets bioink for a shorter time span through its thermal technologies. Besides, droplet bioprinting also contains another method which is Piezoelectric bioprinting.
Piezoelectric bioprinting uses vibration to pass the bioinks to the syringe extruder and makes bubbles that further make a three-dimensional bio object.
Here’s a summary of different bioprinting mechanisms
|Bioprinting Method||Bioprinting Mode||Positive Sides|
|Direct||Extrusion||Simple Process, No casting is required|
|Coaxial||Extrusion||A single step process that create multi layered object|
|Indirect||Extrusion||Requires structural support material that is a wastage|
|Laser||Laser||Does not require any shear stress while cells suspended in ink|
|Droplet||Droplet||Control over the flow of bioink|
Application of Bioprinting
Many users are still in confusion about the application of ed bioprinting.
The first industry that bioprinting directly affects is the MEDICAL sector. For example:
- Patients with severe respiratory diseases will get the most advanced medication after modern research with bioprinting
- Research on tissue engineering and cardiography will get beneficial and informational
- Medication & surgery of muscle tissue, bone, and skin will become even better year by year
- Complex organ replacements will be easier and cost-effective
Furthermore, other industries are expected to be grown in line with the advancement of bioprinting. For example:
- Cultured meat (similar to meat) may add value to the protein market in future
- Estimated time and cost for a research will likely to get down
Bioprinting Industry Projection (2022 to 2027)
Here’s a quick summary of how experts estimate the growth of the bioprinting industry. The research suggests that the bioprinting market will gorw at a CAGR of 21% from the financial year 2022 to 2027.
Luckily, COVID 19 helped the industry to grow further due to the need for advanced medical research.
The estimated market value of the bioprinting industry is USD 1.3 billion at 2022. At 21% compounding annual growth, the figure appears USD 3.3 billion by FY 2027.
Here’s a small summary of what market experts say about the bioprinting industry’s size and growth
These are the key findings of the bioprinting industry projection
- Almost 51% of the market appears to be in North America.
- There are a few key market players like BICO Group, 3D System Inc, Collplant Bio Technologies Ltd, Envision Tech GMBH, and regenHU.
- Experts estimate that Living Cells would be the largest market of 3d bioprinting.
- Pharmaceutical usage and public funding appears to be the main driver of the market.
These are key challenges of the 3d bioprinting industry
- Consistency of the innovation is not in proper control
- Due to patent and other costs, the ultimate bioprinters’ cost may become unaffordable for normal researchers
- There are very fewer data to support further innovations in the bioprinting industry
- The printing process is slow
- The quality of the final bioprinting result may deteriorate due to improper chemical composition of the bioink and support chemical
As a newcomer and LulzBot didn’t do anything worse. They have brought what others have been trying for the last 25 years. The LulzBot bio is clean with its great user interface. The build plate is strong and large enough. The printer took a little time to calibrate, but its auto leveling system was great like the earlier FDM printers. LulzBot is cost-effective considering the value addition it offers.
We hope the user will print real and unmodified collagen and add significant value to the medical research field. The bio is just a ready machine to dig down more.