Local start-up, Bio3D Technologies has developed the first 3D bio-printer in Singapore. Called the Life-Printer "X", this device is able to print biological parts and tissue, which could one day turn out to be a lifesaver, eliminating those endless waiting lists for organ transplants.

Unlike traditional 3D printing which involves depositing a thin layer of material-typically plastic-layer by layer to manufacture items, 3D bio-printing uses human living cells.

The firm's co-founder and director, Fan Mingwei, explained to TODAY (a Singapore daily) that these human living cells are first sourced from a patient or purchased from a US biological resource and research company, and that a significant number of these cells have to be grown before they can be used to print biological parts and organs, among other things.

He added that 3D bio-printing employs much higher precision as the biological parts to be printed are smaller and require a controlled environment conducive for the cells.

In the TODAY report (dated August 6), Fan mentioned that although this new innovation has the capability to print human tissue, the printing of organs would only be achieved in the next 20 to 30 years, as laws and guidelines still need to be set, and further tests and safety trials have to be conducted.

For now, 3D bio-printers are used to help speed up research and drug development. With drug testing, for instance, Fan said that the current process is a lengthy one that involves both animal and human testing. With the use of a 3D bio-printer, researchers would be able to print human tissue for drug testing, and thereby shorten the drug development process.

The Life-Printer "X" will be officially launched today and the printers are available on lease to interested parties. Rental fees are between S$3,000 (US$2,400) and S$10,000 (US$8,000) per month, depending on the level of customisation that needs to be done on the system.