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Friday, March 30, 2018


If you are a big fan of 3D printing, in particular its applications in the healthcare sector, then this is a conference you simply cannot miss. I met Dr. Jenny Chen, the founder and CEO of 3DHEALS, 3 years ago and I can still remember the resonating energy and vibe I got from her very first 3DHEALS event in downtown San Francisco. “What an amazing woman,” I thought, and “what a great initiative to have for this ecosystem!”

In April 2017, Jenny organized the first ever 3DHEALS Global Conference and to date, it is the largest 3D printing for healthcare conference in the world. With her relentless effort and amazing team, Jenny was able to gather healthcare professionals, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, regulatory experts, and investors all in one place. It was a huge success and I have no doubt that the 2018 conference will be another great one.

Why should I attend?

1. Great talks by great speakers
Last year’s panel of speakers blew me away and this year, I am not expecting any less. My personal favorite was hearing the founder of Organovo, Keith Murphy, share his insights and lessons learned from bioprinting. We were also very honored to have Professor Ali Khademhoesseini, previously from Harvard Medical School and now at UCLA, to share his latest research breakthroughs in bioprinting. Many attendees were so inspired by this conference that they could not wait to attend the next one.

2. The startup pitch competition
Investors, entrepreneurs and healthcare technology aficionados simply must not miss the 3DHEALS startup pitch event. This conference attracts the largest group in healthcare 3D printing and bioprinting, and with its proximity to Silicon Valley, you can expect to find the most influential and experienced panel of investors giving startups direct feedback and insights on the best strategies moving forward.

3. Non-profit gala
How much value are we bringing to this world if we cannot make this amazing technology available to everyone? The 3DHEALS team believes that this conference can also make a meaningful social impact and will be organizing a fundraising event for 2 non-profits in the healthcare 3D printing space, as they did last year. The non-profits being featured this year are Victoria Hand Project and Limbforge. The fundraising event will be held on Friday April 20th at Bespoke San Francisco.

4. Workshops: a place for all to learn
One of the great things about this conference is that there are plenty of opportunities for you to learn. The first day, Friday April 20th, is dedicated to workshops where everyone can learn new tools and techniques that are healthcare 3D printing-related, from digital dentistry to bioprinting. Of course, SE3D will be hosting the bioprinting workshop, which is free for all attendees. If you are interested in attending this workshop, please register with us here and don’t forgot to also register at the 3DHeals conference website.

5. Networking
Last but not least, there will of course be plenty of opportunities to network with one another during lunches and breaks between the talks. Don’t forget the evening reception on Saturday night, April 21st - join the tribe at the 3DHEALS Conference with us!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How 3D Printing Will Revolutionize Henna Tattoos

Originating from Ancient India, Henna (also known as Mehndi) is a body art where decorative designs are drawn onto a person’s body using a paste created from the leaves of a henna plant. It is commonly used as an accessory on special occasions such as weddings and holidays. Some of the holidays celebrated with henna are Purim, Diwali, Passover, and various saints’ days.  

Where can you get henna tattoos?
Henna has historically been used in the Arabian Peninsula, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Carthage, and North Africa. There are independent henna artists in the United States. However, hiring a henna artist can cost you anywhere upwards of $75/hr.

How will 3D printing affect henna printing?
The application of henna is very demanding. It is traditionally applied by highly skilled artists with a steady hand as once the material is applied, it will stain the skin almost immediately. The tattoos can last up to three weeks without fading. It also relies on the creativity and imagination of the tattoo artist to come up with unique designs.

Today, technology can really help to change all that and the process of 3D printing a tattoo is actually rather simple. The first step is to create a library of preset printable images which can be sourced from open-source design libraries such as Thingiverse. Alternatively, the user can learn simple CAD (computer aided design) tools to create their own designs. In the case of henna printing, designs with the highest extrusion continuity will come out better than designs that require multiple lifts and movement. You will need a bioprinter or paste extrusion printer to print henna. The henna design can be printed on wax paper that is placed on the print bed. Once the print job is completed, the henna print can be applied onto the skin for a minimum of five minutes.

Nearly anyone, even a high school student, can learn how to operate a 3D printer to print a henna tattoo. The barrier in learning new technologies like 3D printing is lowering as an increasing number of resources becomes available. The integration of technology and automation allows the average special events organizer to save in labor costs and increase the productivity.  One day, when bioprinters and 3D printers become a common household tool, henna tattoos will no longer be an activity reserved only for special occasions.

What limitations will we find with 3D printing henna?
While 3D printing henna can certainly change the tattooing industry, there will still be a need for traditional henna tattoo artists. Henna printing is currently limited to what users can create on 3D modeling and slicing software. Significant amounts of time and resources are still necessary to create a huge repository of printable henna designs. . However, with enough time and growing interest in the henna printing industry, computer algorithms can be written to generate intricate geometric patterns. This would eventually result in a virtually limitless library of designs to choose from.
Henna printing is restricted by the size of the print bed. It can also be challenging to transfer a 2D design onto a 3D surface such an arm. At the moment, it is more efficient for complicated designs that encompass a large surface area to be drawn by freehand artists. In the near future, the combination of 3D scanning, 3D printing and real-time sensing technology could allow for any tattoo design to be directly printed onto the human body.

Rather than removing tradition, 3D printing could enhance the experience. Henna printing could help large scale events and work alongside traditional henna artists by printing simpler patterns, thereby reducing long wait lines for a henna tattoo.  While henna printing is still in very early stages, SE3D has initiated the movement by using our very own 3D bioprinter to print henna tattoos for a local Diwali event in Santa Clara. We believe this is something that will slowly “grow on us” with time.

Monday, January 29, 2018

SE3D Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Luciano Paulino Silva

Dr. Luciano Paulino Silva is a senior researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). He has 18 years of experience in scientific research and development and has published 130 scientific papers in the field of bioprospecting, nanobiotechnology, and beyond. Dr. Silva is also an alumni (affiliated) member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, editorial board member and reviewer of multiple scientific journals,  consultant for Brazilian governmental agencies and a full professor of Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology, as well as Molecular Biology at the Institute of Biological Sciences of the University of Brasilia.

Maya: Dr. Silva, please tell us about the research work at your laboratory.
Silva: The Laboratory of Nanobiotechnology - LNANO at Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (Brasilia, DF, Brazil) focuses on research that utilizes nanotechnology to support or enhance biological systems. These projects include the characterization of biological structures at the nanoscale, the development of nanosystems for targeted delivery and controlled release, and the development of functional surfaces for applications in food packaging, bioremediation, nanobiosensors, nanocatalysts, etc. In the realm of additive manufacturing, we have also used a variety of techniques to 3D print biological scaffolds, reactionware, and labware for use in the lab.

Maya: That is really fascinating. Can you tell us a bit more about your work in bioprinting?
Silva: We have many biofabrication projects which utilizes bioprinting techniques in various ways. In utilizing these techniques, we need to develop and select nanomaterials, biomaterials, and cells suitable for biofabrication. We also need to construct CAD (computer aided design) models to print with and using the bioprinting process to lay down cells and/or materials. In order to achieve the end result of the biological model, we need to promote maturation of biomimetic under conditions suitable for maintaining viability and stimulating the proliferation capacity of entrapped cells in the scaffolds. Finally, we need to test for the biological activity, functionality, and other characteristics necessary for validating the biomimetic that is developed from the biochemical, morphological, and physiological viewpoints.

Maya: What is the greatest challenge you face with this technology?
Silva: Some of scientific challenges we face are the development of new biofabrication materials that are more biocompatible and the selection of growth media and maturing agents that allow the maintenance of biomimetic in medium and long term periods. On the hardware side of things, the development of new devices that integrate several biofabrication techniques into a single system can be challenging. Other challenges are regulations that are not yet clearly established by competent agencies and budget constraints that deprive us of the possibility of effective access to the most current technologies. The final issue is establishing truly effective partnerships and collaborations among scientists and engineers in the field to share and discuss more aspects related to the development of customized bio-inks, maturogens, hardware, and software more appropriate to the real demands in research.

Maya: Why is bioprinting technology so exciting to you?
Silva: Bioprinting technologies have a high potential of revolutionizing several frontiers, ranging from bioengineering to the screening of bioactive substances. The properties of numerous nanomaterials and biomaterials allow them to be used as essential building blocks for numerous 3D bioprinted objects with the possibility of conferring unique characteristics not possible with the use of other available materials. Additionally, digital manufacturing offers a plethora of new possibilities ranging from the manufacture of biological models in macroscale to the development of functional structures with specific characteristics that meet scientific demands. On the educational aspect, bioprinting technology promotes activities related to teaching of biomaterials and nanosciences that creates a playful and tangible experience for students. Not to mention the unique approaches involving 3D bioprinting combined with other techniques such as synthetic biology would truly enable us to construct mimetics of biological structures with characteristics that resemble those observed in living organisms. I expect that bioprinting technology will continue to break our scientific paradigms and revolutionize our thinking process.  

Maya: What is your advice for students who want to get into the field?
Silva: My first advice for young scientists and students is to seek their dreams with passion and perseverance. Bioengineering professionals will have to keep in mind that it will be extremely difficult to develop a functional bio-prototype that could be more advanced (or even similar) than the design that nature took millions of years to develop by natural selection. Bioprinting is also only one of many stages of the whole biofabrication process. There will be many mishaps, barriers, and obstacles along the way. A small suggestion from me would be to look for creative and truly innovative ways to make the studies feasible, such as observing the nature around you.

Maya: When do you think organ printing will become a reality?
Silva: I think that organ printing will become a reality when we understand that collaborative efforts are necessary to uncover a unique way to take this area to the next stage and when we as researchers and scientists develop truly innovative and practical approaches instead of fictional and sometimes surreal perspectives. Some of the main technical challenges we still face today are: adequate material choice, speed of execution of bioprinting processes, preservation of the functional viability of the biological structures produced, and the cost related to biofabrication processes.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bioprinting 101: What you ought to know

3D bioprinting is a rapidly growing field, but what exactly does it entail? While the capabilities of bioprinting have not yet reached the level depicted by popular culture, we are on the brink of a bioprinting revolution and fully transplantable organs should be feasible within the next decade. The potential of 3D bioprinters is immeasurable, with promise in altering the very limits of the human lifespan itself. For those curious about this new technology, here are some basics of bioprinting.

Technology - how it works

A bioprinter works in a similar way as a 3D printer. It moves in the x, y and z directions to deposit materials in a layer-by-layer fashion but in this case, instead of extruding molten plastic, it extrudes biomaterials and cells. The three most common types of bioprinting technology are (1) the extrusion based system, (2) laser-assisted deposition system and (3) inkjet based bioprinting system. Depending on the desired end-user application, each technology platform offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Extrusion-based bioprinters are the simplest in design and can be very affordable but does not offer the highest resolution. On the other hand, while laser-assisted bioprinters can provide a high precision and resolution, it is quite cost prohibitive and sophisticated.

Materials - what it prints
The materials used in bioprinters often also coined as “bioinks” include a variety of natural or synthetic biopolymers. These materials have a unique crosslinking chemistry that will allow them to transform from the liquid to a solid state. Some biopolymers exhibit thermosensitivity meaning they would change state when the temperature changes. A good example is agarose which is in liquid state at higher temperatures (>40 oC) and solidifies into a gel at lower temperatures, just like Jello. Other biopolymers such as alginate, a natural polymer derived from brown seaweed, turns into a gel when it is crosslinked in the presence of calcium ions (Ca2+).

Cells - the living things
What makes a bioprinter unique is that it is used to print cells. What kind of cells? Any and many. Scientists have experimented with all kinds of mammalian cells from skin to muscle to stem cells for growing 3D tissues and tissue models. Cells and biopolymers serve as building blocks for creating a 3D tissue. The bioprinter allows precise and specific deposition of cells, as individuals and/or groups of cells into specific locations within the engineered tissue.


The primary application of bioprinting has been for tissue engineering and drug discovery. The goal of tissue engineering is to regenerate and/or replace damaged tissues and organs in the future. Today, bioprinted 3D tissue and organ models are being used in the pharmaceutical industry for drug screening applications. Bioprinted 3D tissue models provide a better mimicry to living tissues in our body compared to current 2D cell culture techniques and reduces our reliance on animal models which do not correspond well to human physiology. Today bioprinted human skin models are gaining popularity for cosmetics testing. In the future, fully functional bioprinted organs can be used for organ transplants.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Spirulina: The Ultimate Superfood

Spirulina is an organic superfood that eliminates diseases, reduces cholesterol, and energizes you. If losing weight or eating healthy is important to you, then spirulina is something you might want to look into.

Spirulina was originally found and utilized by Aztecs in the 16th century and later rediscovered in Lake Texcoco by French researchers. It is high in protein, and carries many important antioxidants and vitamins, such as Vitamin B-12 and iron. Unlike many other superfoods, fresh spirulina is odorless and nearly tasteless, making it a great addition to almost any food. In a recent SE3D  experiment, spirulina was mixed with chocolate to create a superfood chocolate print that was indistinguishable from a normal print. Furthermore, it is extremely affordable to buy. Grown on a farm or taken from a lake, this algae is not in short supply. It has no harmful side-effects and is a natural appetite suppressant.

Recently, Robert Henrikson opened the first spirulina farm in Northern California. Spirulina can be cultivated locally in many temperate climates and can be successfully cultivated in outdoor ponds. Fresh water is not required as brackish and alkaline water will work as well. Spirulina does not require fertile land. In fact, it can grow on any flat land. In a world overflowing with environmental problems such as water and land shortages, spirulina is an incredible eco-friendly solution.

Spirulina being made into shapes is not an abstract idea. You can find Spirulina in tablet or powder form in many stores. In terms of bioprinting, the technology is rapidly growing to the point where one day printing food, similar to Picard’s Earl Grey Fabricator, could exist. In a few years, this technology will rocket out of their infancy stages, and all we have to do now is sit back and watch.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Best 3D Chocolate Printers of 2017

With the growing popularity of food printers, there is no surprise that a market for 3D Chocolate Printers. We review the pros and cons of the different chocolate printers that are currently on the rise using our intimate knowledge of chocolate printing.

Model: Chocabyte 3D printer
Why you should buy it: Great value for price
Who it’s for: Beginners with limited or no 3D printing knowledge
Pitfalls: Limited to only 500 units
Price Point: $99

The Chocabyte 3D printer, which debuted at CES 2014, is a marriage of handiwork between designer Quinn Kataitiana and Solid Idea. Limited to just 500 units, the Chocabyte printer is hand-crafted and priced at an astonishing $99. There are currently no other chocolate printers in the market at this price point. No CAD knowledge is necessary as Solid Idea offers a library of chocolate printing templates. Chocabyte runs on a syringe based system which can be purchased from the website. The chocolate must be warmed up prior to insertion and printing. The biggest limitation is that the print area is limited to 5x5x2.5cm. Print times are expected to run no more than 10 minutes. As of currently, the Chocabyte homepage is under construction, indicating a possible next generation in the near future.

Model: Choc Creator V2.0 Plus
Why you should buy it: Very accurate chocolate printer with all necessary equipment supplied
Who it’s for: Intermediate users and chocolatiers
Pitfalls: Software runs on Windows only
Price Point: $3300

The Choc Creator V2.0 Plus is the brainchild of Dr. Liang Hao, a critical member of Britain’s University of Exeter team that developed the first ever 3D chocolate printer. The V2.0 Plus also runs on a syringe based system and adheres to the principles of additive layer manufacturing. The print bed is 18x18x4cm, allowing for a relatively large print size. The max 2D print size 17x17cm and 3D print size of 2.5cm to 3.75cm and height of 4cm.

The Cho Creator V2.0 Plus Package includes the printer, a resuable stainless steel food-grade syringe, metal nozzles, slicing programs and a library of 2D and 3D designs. It also comes with an LCD touch screen that makes it user-friendly and possible to use without a computer. Given the $3300 price point, the V2.0 Plus may be out of the average household’s budget and is likely much more feasible for an industry use and application.

Model: Mmuse Touchscreen Chocolate 3D Printer
Why you should buy it: Quite possibly the most advanced chocolate printer of 2017
Who it’s for: Industry uses
Pitfalls: High price point; prints slower than advertised
Price Point: $4499

Chinese based company Mmuse has created a line of chocolate printers that range from $3599-4499. Unlike the previous two chocolate printers, the Mmuse Touchscreen Chocolate 3D Printer is unusual in that it can print directly from chocolate beans. The Mmuse printer utilizes temperature control to properly melt chocolate beans. The print bed sits at 16x12x15cm. Like all the other chocolate printers, Mmuse utilizes gcode and STL files. The high price of the MMuse printer makes it more of a luxury item, though scaling for industry use can definitely be possible.

3D Chocolate Printing is still relatively new in the market. However, there are many up and coming chocolate printers that should reach both an industry and household demand in the near future.

For more information on chocolate printing workshops in the bay area, sign up here.


New Methods 
A new method in bioprinting has been developed by an Oxford University spin-off company, OxSyBio, that will enable researchers to print and arrange cells in pre-determined 3D architectures. This novel method leverages the use of a lipid coating which encapsulates cells within protective nanolitre droplets during the printing process. Dr Alexander Graham, the lead author and scientist of OxSynBio, demonstrated the application of this technique with human embryonic kidney (HEK) cells and ovine mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). He was able to achieve high-resolution 3D geometries in the range of less than 200 microns while maintaining high cell viability. Learn more about this exciting work at their Nature publication – Scientific Reports

New Materials 
In the most recent development, a clay-based bioink was developed and shown to provide improved drug delivery properties. A team of researchers from University of Southhampton and the Technische Universitat Dresden in Germany used a synthetic nanosilicate clay called Laponite to create a 3D printable bioink that supports mesenchymal stem cell growth. The material is combined with alginate and methylcellulose produces properties that make it suitable for bioprinting and drug delivery applications. To learn more about this innovative bioink, check out their most recent publication in Biofabrication

Featured Application  
Researchers at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden reported successful bioprinting with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in a nanocellulose-alginate bioink to create cartilage in vitro. The experiments involved a comparison study between the use of alginate versus hyaluronic acid and their findings showed superior results in the alginate-based bioink for creating cartilage tissue structures. Get more detailed specifics about their research in this Nature Scientific Reports publication. 

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