We all know 3D printing is an emerging technology with plenty of potential, but it has been one for more than a decade. However, 3D printers are becoming cheaper and although they will never replace office printers, they are slowly becoming more widespread and available to more people. Modern 3D printers can use a range of materials, including plastic, metal, glass and so on, but they could even do their magic with human cells.
Bioprinting firm Organovo has announced a partnership with 3D modeling giant Autodesk in an effort to speed things up a bit. Of course, you can't order a replacement liver on eBay just yet, but Organovo printers are capable of printing some small bits, like arteries and knee cartilage. They are not for human use though, but they can be used in drug testing, which is good news for rhesus monkeys.
Creating complex organs with today's technology is next to impossible. This is where Autodesk's 3D modeling expertise comes into play.
"Life is becoming a nascent design space in an engineering sense. It's subject to specs, subject to QA, it's repeatable. Biology is becoming an engineering discipline," Autodesk's Carlos Olguin told Singularity Hub.
Autodesk software could be used to translate body imaging into 3D models, which means MRIs, X-rays and CT scans could be used to create custom organs. High resolution scans could enable boffins to create tailor made organs for transplants, which sounds a lot more practical than waiting for a Ducati enthusiast to hug a telephone pole at 100 mph.
However, developing the necessary technology could take years, not to mention years of clinical trials on top of that.