The range of uses for three-dimensional printers is increasing all the time, but now scientists have 3D "bioprinters" that print out skin, cartilage, bone, and other body parts. 3D printers print by depositing material line by line and then vertically layer by layer. They have been used to make sculptures and more.
Professor James Yoo, from the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science his group is developing a system that will allow them to print skin directly onto burn wounds. Their research is funded by the US Department of Defense.
The bioprinter has a built-in laser scanner that scans the wound and determines its depth and area. The scan is converted into three-dimensional digital images that enable the device to calculate how many layers of skin cells need to be printed on the wound to restore it to its original configuration. The system has successfully printed skin patches 10 cm (almost 4 inches) square on a pig.