Bioprinting and 3D Printing

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bioprinting and 3D printing with bio-based materials are revolutionizing manufacturing, offering a sustainable and innovative approach to creating complex structures and functional products. Bioprinting specifically refers to the 3D printing of living cells and biomaterials to create biological structures like tissues and organs. More broadly, 3D printing with bio-based materials utilizes renewable resources like plant-based polymers, algae extracts, and even fungal mycelium to fabricate a range of objects, from packaging to building components. This technology offers a compelling solution to reduce the environmental impact of traditional manufacturing, enabling on-demand production, minimizing waste, and utilizing renewable resources.

Impact on climate action

Bioprinting and 3D printing of bio-based materials offer a sustainable alternative to conventional manufacturing, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and minimizing carbon emissions. By enabling the production of biodegradable products and structures, this innovation promotes circular economy principles and contributes to mitigating climate change.


  • 3D Printing Technologies: Bioprinting and 3D printing with bio-based materials utilize various 3D printing technologies, including:
    • Extrusion-Based Printing: A bio-based material, often in a paste or gel form, is extruded through a nozzle layer by layer to build a 3D object.
    • Vat Polymerization: A liquid photopolymer resin, containing bio-based components, is selectively cured by a light source, layer by layer, to form a 3D object.
    • Powder Bed Fusion: A laser or electron beam selectively melts and fuses powdered bio-based material, layer by layer, to create a solid object.
  • Bio-Ink Development: Bioprinting requires the development of specialized “bio-inks” that contain living cells, biomaterials, and growth factors. These bio-inks must be carefully formulated to support cell viability and functionality during the printing process and subsequent tissue development.
  • Material Science and Engineering: Optimizing the printability, mechanical properties, and biocompatibility of bio-based materials for 3D printing requires expertise in material science and engineering.

TRL : 4-8 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Resolution Bioprinting: Innovations focus on developing bioprinting techniques with higher resolution and precision, enabling the creation of intricate biological structures, such as blood vessels and complex tissues.
  • Multi-Material Bioprinting: 3D printing systems capable of printing with multiple bio-based materials and cell types, creating complex and functional tissues with greater accuracy.
  • Bio-Based Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering: Printing bio-based scaffolds that provide structural support and guide tissue regeneration, offering promising solutions for regenerative medicine and wound healing.
  • Sustainable Packaging and Consumer Products: Utilizing 3D printing with bio-based materials to create customized and on-demand packaging solutions, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy in the packaging industry.
  • Bio-Based Building Components: 3D printing with bio-based composites and other materials to fabricate building components, such as wall panels, insulation, and even entire structures, offering a sustainable alternative to conventional construction methods.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Living Cell Printing Technologies
  • Photopolymer Resin Development
  • Powdered Bio-Based Material Fusion
  • Bio-Ink Formulation Innovations
  • Material Science in Bioprinting
  • High-Resolution Bioprinting Techniques
  • Multi-Material Bioprinting Systems
  • Bio-Based Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering
  • Customized Consumer Products
  • Bio-Based Building Component Fabrication
  • Bioprinting in Regenerative Medicine
  • Advanced Bioprinting Research
  • Bio-Inspired Materials Development
  • Bioprinting for Transplantation
  • Personalized Medical Devices
  • Regenerative Tissue Engineering
  • Customized Packaging Solutions

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Cellink:
    • Technology Focus: Cellink is a leader in the field of bioprinting, offering advanced 3D bioprinters, bioinks, and software solutions. Their technology enables the printing of living tissues and organs for medical research, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine applications.
    • Uniqueness: Cellink stands out for its comprehensive bioprinting ecosystem, which includes customizable printers, bioinks tailored for specific cell types, and user-friendly software for designing complex tissue structures.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions cater to a wide range of end-users, including academic research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology startups, and hospitals, all seeking to advance the field of tissue engineering and personalized medicine.
  2. Fortify:
    • Technology Focus: Fortify specializes in 3D printing technology enhanced with composite materials and digital light processing (DLP). Their proprietary DLP hardware and software enable the precise control of material properties and printing resolution, unlocking new possibilities in manufacturing.
    • Uniqueness: Fortify’s technology allows for the fabrication of high-performance parts with enhanced strength, durability, and functionality. By reinforcing standard 3D printing resins with fibers and nanoparticles, they achieve superior mechanical properties.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are particularly appealing to industries requiring strong and lightweight components, such as aerospace, automotive, defense, and consumer electronics, where traditional manufacturing methods often fall short in meeting performance requirements.
  3. Biomason:
    • Technology Focus: Biomason is revolutionizing the construction industry with its innovative approach to 3D printing using biological materials. They utilize bacteria to grow bio-cement and bio-bricks, offering a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete production methods.
    • Uniqueness: Biomason’s technology leverages biological processes to produce building materials in a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient manner. By harnessing the natural properties of microorganisms, they create durable and eco-friendly construction materials.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions appeal to architects, developers, and construction companies seeking sustainable building materials for residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects. Additionally, their technology has the potential to address global challenges related to carbon emissions and resource depletion in the construction sector.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: The research at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) involves advancing bioprinting techniques to create complex, functional tissues and organs using bio-based materials. They are pioneering the development of bioinks composed of natural polymers and living cells suitable for 3D printing.
    • Uniqueness of Research: WFIRM’s approach integrates expertise in regenerative medicine, biomaterials, and 3D printing technology to address the challenges of tissue engineering. Their focus on using bio-based materials derived from renewable sources enhances the biocompatibility and sustainability of the fabricated tissues.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-printed tissues and organs developed at WFIRM have potential applications in regenerative medicine, personalized healthcare, and pharmaceutical testing. For instance, bio-printed skin grafts can be used to treat burn injuries, while bio-printed organ models can be employed for drug screening and disease modeling.
  2. Harvard University (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Harvard University are pushing the boundaries of 3D printing technology by developing novel bio-based materials with customizable properties for various applications. They are exploring innovative techniques such as multi-material printing and voxel-based fabrication to create complex, hierarchical structures.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Harvard’s research stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, combining expertise in materials science, engineering, biology, and design. They are leveraging bio-inspired principles to engineer bio-based materials with advanced functionalities, such as self-healing, stimuli responsiveness, and biodegradability.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at Harvard have diverse applications, including tissue engineering, drug delivery, and wearable electronics. For example, bio-printed scaffolds with controlled porosity and mechanical properties can support the regeneration of bone and cartilage tissues, while bio-based hydrogels can serve as drug carriers for targeted therapy.
  3. University of Technology Sydney (Australia):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are exploring the use of bio-based materials in 3D printing to address environmental sustainability and resource efficiency. They are developing bioinks and filaments derived from renewable sources, such as algae, cellulose, and chitosan.
    • Uniqueness of Research: UTS’s research emphasizes the integration of bio-based materials with additive manufacturing processes to enable the production of functional prototypes and end-use products with reduced environmental footprint. They are investigating the use of waste-derived biomaterials and bio-based composites to create sustainable 3D printed objects.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials and 3D printing technologies developed at UTS have applications in various industries, including architecture, consumer goods, and biomedical devices. For instance, bio-based filaments can be used to fabricate eco-friendly packaging materials, while bio-printed scaffolds can be employed for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

  • Medical Devices and Implants: Bioprinting is being used to create personalized medical devices, such as prosthetics and implants, tailored to the specific needs of individual patients.
  • Tissue Engineering Products: Bio-based scaffolds and other tissue engineering products are being developed for wound healing, cartilage repair, and other regenerative medicine applications.
  • Packaging and Consumer Products: 3D printing with bio-based materials is being used to create customized packaging solutions, promotional items, and even toys.
  • Building Components: Limited commercial applications are emerging for 3D printed building components using bio-based materials, showcasing the potential for sustainable construction.