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Old Inkjet Becomes New Bio-Materials Printer

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the but-the-ink-is-so-expensive dept.

Biotech 39

MikeChino writes "Instructables member Patrik has successfully transformed an old HP5150 inkjet printer into a DIY bioprinter. To do this he removed the plastic covers and panels and rewired the paper handling mechanism. Then he prepped ink cartridges to be able to handle biological materials by opening the lid, removing the ink, and washing it out with deionized water. For his first experiment, he printed a simple solution of arabinose onto filter paper."

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39 comments

Isn't the goal to print live cells? (2)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697043)

My understanding is that inkjets work in one of two ways, either boiling the ink in the nozzles to make them squirt, or subjecting the ink to extreme pressure using piezo. What effect would that have on trying to print (presumably live) cells?

Re:Isn't the goal to print live cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697263)

Let the 3D printer nutcases have their fun. They're not going anywhere with this, promise. You might as well call it a bioprinter if it squirts pure water; after all water is in cells, therefore it's a bioprinter. Hey, I guess that makes my kitchen sink a mass production bioprinter! Oh brave new world!

Re:Isn't the goal to print live cells? (5, Informative)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697471)

We use the print heads to deliver specific measurements of various biological and chemical liquids in our labs here at the UW in Seattle.

Been doing it for years. I remember a seminar around 2005 was the first I saw, but it might precede then.

Re:Isn't the goal to print live cells? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697739)

So? How is that "3D printing"? It's a fucking eye dropper. People on slash immediately grab on to the slightest bit of information that has even an inkling of a shadow of a connection to the fantasy of 3D printing fully functional organs that you just plop into your thorax. It never is.

Re:Isn't the goal to print live cells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42698071)

No one said anything about 3D printing except you.

Re:Isn't the goal to print live cells? (1)

RDW (41497) | about a year and a half ago | (#42699809)

Agilent (an HP spinoff) has been printing DNA microarrays using inkjet technology on a commercial scale for a decade or so. Arrayjet will sell you an inkjet-based arrayer that can print 'proteins, cell lysates, carbohydrates, lectins, DNA & oligos': http://www.arrayjet.co.uk/products [arrayjet.co.uk]
This is not only practical, it's big business.
 

Thermal or Piezo? (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697107)

Aside from the ugly business of working around all the annoying interlocks that inkjets have for atypical paper feed/consumables condition/problems that exist only in their own imagination/etc. which generally stop the printer dead, regardless of how mechanically healthy it is; a problem that is annoying, but solvable with sufficient electronics hackery skill, I'd be curious to know how well biological 'inks', or any other not-formulated-for-the-purpose materials deal with the inkjet mechanism.

In piezolelectric inkjet printers, an electrically actuated piezo element provides the slight expansion necessary to shove a droplet of ink out of the nozzle. I'd assume that anything that is tolerant of small(but high frequency, a piezo head can shove out some tens of thousands of droplets per second, and at fair speed, so there are probably stresses that particularly whiny and structurally complex organic molecules can't handle) pressure waves should be fine.

However, particularly among consumer cheapies, thermal inkjets have become quite common: these use a pulse of current across a resistive element to vaporize part of the ink, the expansion of which drives the remaining ink out of the chamber and toward the target. The amount of heat is small in absolute terms(the vaporization chambers are constructed by photolithiographic techniques, to give a sense of scale; but enough heat to flash-vaporize ink is quite probably enough heat to denature common proteins and/or turn common biological materials into a layer of gooey carbon gunk that clogs the print head in short order.

Any word on whether piezo printers are best for this application, or does thermal work much better than I would naively expect?

Re:Thermal or Piezo? (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697191)

> Aside from the ugly business of working around all the annoying interlocks that inkjets have for atypical paper
> feed/consumables condition/problems that exist only in their own imagination/etc. which generally stop the
> printer dead, regardless of how mechanically healthy it is; a problem that is annoying, but solvable with sufficient
> electronics hackery skill

Loading the page pops up a picture of a print head mounted on some custom built stand, with wires connecting it to what looks like an arduino prototyping board with two stacked sheilds. I think its safe to say that those interlocks are effectively bypassed.

As for thermal vs piezo, the title here specifically mentions it is an old printer. I haven't read any of it yet but one of the pictures shows a printed pattern, which appears to be glowing. I am just going to assume those are the printed cells and they are bioluminecent. I would call that a pretty slam dunk test right there.

Re:Thermal or Piezo? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697317)

Oh, I don't doubt his ability to work past the interlocks, I was(attempting to, may have been unclear) contrast attacking the interlocks, which is annoying but within the capabilities of a good electronics hobbyist, with handling any more serious issues with either payload destruction or printhead fouling, which would require reworking of the mechanism to such a degree that you might as well not start with an inkjet at all, printheads are exquisitely tiny little things.

It certainly does look like his system doesn't kill its payload; but I'd be curious about whether it has fouling problems or not over time.

Epson interlocks (2)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42698545)

Epson printers (and most inkjet printers in general) have a single photo-interrupter that detects proper paper feed. These are simple units - not the complex photocopiers in your workplace.

In the case of Epson, once the motor starts the paper has to trip the photo-interrupter within a window of some milliseconds (like - between 1/2 and 1 second) or the unit will throw a paper jam error.

After removing all the gears and rollers in the back of the printer, you have the photo-interrupter in hand, still wired to the unit. An easy way to use it is to make a "carrier board" on which to place your medium (filter paper, for instance). Put a notch in the front corner of the carrier so that when the first part of the carrier goes through the paper feed it doesn't trip the interrupter, but past the notch it does. If you cut your notch to the right length the timing is obeyed and the carrier is processed as a piece of paper.

(IOW, the leading edge of the carrier is 8" wide, because a 1/2" strip is cut from one side. Two inches further in the paper is 8 1/2" wide. The photo-interrupter is placed so that the notch doesn't interrupt, but the full width does.)

The print head rides above the paper surface roughly .06" (varies with printer, and is adjustable on some printers), so you may need to raise the print head a little. A dremel tool cutoff wheel and some washers for spacing will work here.

Re:Thermal or Piezo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697501)

I am just going to assume those are the printed cells and they are bioluminecent. I would call that a pretty slam dunk test right there.

For his first experiment, he printed a simple solution of arabinose onto filter paper.

Next time try reading the page as well as looking at the pictures.

Re:Thermal or Piezo? (3, Informative)

Patrik D'haeseleer (2824771) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697489)

Yes, thermal does work much better than you would natively expect? In fact, other research groups have specifically looked for heat shock effects on live cells after printing using thermal inkjet, and found very little sign of any. Thermal and piezo printers both seem to work well to print live cells, although occasionally you hear one side claim that the other's printer technology doesn't work (Thermal printer will cook the cell! Piezo printers use the same frequencies as used to sonicate cells!)

Epson printers (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year and a half ago | (#42698505)

Epson printers use piezo print heads. These are available for thin money everywhere, sometimes for free: salvation army store, town dump, craigslist.

Hackers are using these to print etch-resist directly to copper-clad boards for making PCBs. The Epson ink is wax based instead of pigment based, so some of the inks make good etch resist (Mispro yellow apparently works best.) (Glossing over a few details.)

The cartridges are counter locked, but you can purchase a reflash tool on eBay for under $5 that will reset the code counter on any cartridge.

You can also purchase new, empty cartridges for just about any printer online (example: inksupply.com). That might be more convenient than trying to wash out a used cartridge, and the used cartridge may have wear-and-tear anyway.

The original article claims that the small nozzle/droplet size of modern printers make them unsuitable for biological printing. I'm skeptical of this claim, but if they say so...

Mmmmmmmm (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697121)

This document tastes like chicken!

DIY Biohacking (1)

eksith (2776419) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697143)

Now this is news for nerds!

Staples? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697203)

The bitch is finding Genuine HP Bio Print Cartridges.

Patents Are The Problem (4, Insightful)

LuxuryYacht (229372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697245)

Inkjets have been used for years to print living cells and also the scaffolding for cells to adhere to. The problem isn't so much the tech but the sea of patents blocking anyone from bringing a complete system to market. When this problem is solved look for rapid progress on many fronts. Until then maybe it will only be available in countries that favor technological progress over nurturing an obsessive compulsion to hoard money that goes unused.

Patents are the problem with tissue engineering, just as it is with other 3D print applications. I'm not against patents. It's just that the current way it's being run isn't working to help move tech progress forward, it only helps a few to make money and also keep control over the rate of progress.

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697457)

Inkjets have been used for years to print living cells and also the scaffolding for cells to adhere to. The problem isn't so much the tech but the sea of patents blocking anyone from bringing a complete system to market. When this problem is solved look for rapid progress on many fronts. Until then maybe it will only be available in countries that favor technological progress over nurturing an obsessive compulsion to hoard money that goes unused.

Patents are the problem with tissue engineering, just as it is with other 3D print applications. I'm not against patents. It's just that the current way it's being run isn't working to help move tech progress forward, it only helps a few to make money and also keep control over the rate of progress.

I think that the UW may hold many of the underlying patents which are licensed for use at a much lower fee than private enterprise may wish to charge. Check with UW Tech on this.

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

Raenex (947668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42699291)

I'm not against patents. It's just that the current way it's being run isn't working to help move tech progress forward, it only helps a few to make money and also keep control over the rate of progress.

Then propose a viable alternative, because patents lead to exactly this situation. Do you find it odd that somebody granted a monopoly abuses it to their maximum potential?

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

volmtech (769154) | about a year and a half ago | (#42700755)

The only viable alternative is a moratorium on patent enforcement for say, ten years. Most tech is obsolete before the patents run out. I believe the benefit in maximizing the potential in know processes will out way any new developments that will be hidden until they can be patented when the moratorium runs out. That goes the same for copy write. People can draw Micky Mouse on every thing they own for ten years, that ought to get it out of their system.

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42700843)

Then propose a viable alternative...

Registered Intellectual Property: Intellectual property (patented invention, copyrighted material, etc) is registered and given protection for the first year for the cost of one dollar. To extend the protection for an additional year would cost twice the price of the previous year. Failure to register puts the intellectual property into the public domain.

So the first year would cost $1, the second, $2, the third $4, etc. By year 11, it would cost $1024 to re-register. By year 21, renewal would cost just over $1million; year 25, over $10million; year 28, over $100million. To maintain protection for year 31 would cost over a billion dollars.

Most intellectual property would remain protected for 15 years or so. Quite a lot would become unprofitable after 20, and only the deepest pockets could maintain protections for 30+ years.

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

LuxuryYacht (229372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42705381)

Some of the problems are with patenting the obvious or having overlapping patents. Too many patents overlap each other or are painfully obvious that are granted with the idea that these issues should be settled later in the courts. This has led to abuse of the original intent of the system.

If society also decides that patents are only for the purpose of financial gain and the deliberate hinderance to scientific progress and the betterment of mankind then they deserve what they get. Most people are just unaware of the current gaming of the system and don't feel this way.

Re:Patents Are The Problem (1)

Raenex (947668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42706353)

Some of the problems are with patenting the obvious or having overlapping patents. Too many patents overlap each other or are painfully obvious that are granted with the idea that these issues should be settled later in the courts.

You don't provide any way to prevent this. Practice has shown that dubious patents will be issued. Just saying "don't do that" isn't a compelling argument.

If society also decides that patents are only for the purpose of financial gain and the deliberate hinderance to scientific progress and the betterment of mankind then they deserve what they get.

You, again, haven't provided an alternative. At least two other posters that replied to me have. It's difficult to get laws changed, especially when entrenched, powerful interests are against you and the issue doesn't directly impact most people.

Most people are just unaware of the current gaming of the system and don't feel this way.

True enough, but even worse, I think the Apple vs. Motorola case demonstrates that juries aren't qualified to decide on these issues.

Thanks (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697275)

Found your printer on Google [slashdot.org] . Stand by for some Ebola.

Re:Thanks (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about a year and a half ago | (#42699077)

1. Google bioprinter on net
2. Program network bioprinter to create highly illegal biologicals
3. Call the cops.
4. PROFIT!

Scary uses (1)

phorm (591458) | about a year and a half ago | (#42699937)

You know, I thought that having an PWNable internet-connected printer was bad because some guy could print out goatse pictures.

Even worse would be a "bioprinter" where it could be printer in some 3d, flesh-like material....

Not new. Bakers use them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697311)

Hmm. bakers have been doing this for years to print edible pictures for on top of cakes.

Re:Not new. Bakers use them (1)

Patrik D'haeseleer (2824771) | about a year and a half ago | (#42719963)

Bakers use bioprinters to print live cells onto cakes? Cool! Have to get me one of those ;-)

Um, we do this at the UW all the time (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697445)

Look, various labs at the UW in Seattle have been doing this for a long time, in Biochem, Medical Genetics, and various other departments.

In fact, we paint the print heads purple for our school colors.

Been doing it for at least 8 years now.

Just read any scientific journal with research done by us.

Note: I have no idea if we patented any of this, but that doesn't mean we didn't.

Re:Um, we do this at the UW all the time (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year and a half ago | (#42700933)

Your labs hack together old inkjets and cd drive parts to make bioprinters? Can't they afford the real thing?

Great article (1)

steveha (103154) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697759)

I really liked this article. It explains what they did, with discussion at each step for tricky points or ideas for future improvement. Then it provides an example of a simple way that the modified printer can be put to use.

At the end it compares the size of the ink nozzles with the size of various cells, and concludes that a purpose-built printer would probably be better. Especially because there seems to be an ink filter with a very small screen inside the cartridge!

One idea left unexplored: would an older inkjet printer work better? Nozzle sizes would be larger. Possibly old cartridges might not even have an ink filter?

Re:Great article (1)

skids (119237) | about a year and a half ago | (#42698061)

The material in my sig might have been able to get their kit working from the printer PCB of a 1150 instead of adding an arduino, though there's still quite some work to do ferreting out the jet/cartridge control.

That's Racist! (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697765)

He's printing Arab Noses? Aren't they big enough already?

Re:That's Racist! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42699293)

Not compared to a Jewish nose. Jewish noses are so big you cannot laugh at them and even less print them.

yawn! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42697767)

Is that what passes for a "hack" these days? Here's a real hack [slashdot.org] that everyone can get excited about.

Re:yawn! (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#42698019)

hey it took alot of hard thinking to take a product with a clamp attached, and clamp it to something!

Standard inkjet printer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42697997)

I splooged on a picture of your mom last nite, and all I used was an old canon inkjet to print her picture

What about the HP nanny? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42698923)

Is the HP nanny program going to remind you to replace your empty bio-material cartridge only with an official HP Bio-Material InkJet cartridge?

University of Toronto creates 3D skin printer for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42701265)

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/a-3-d-machine-that-prints-skin-how-burn-care-could-be-revolutionized/article7540819/?service=mobile

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