They call it Tissue Structure Information Modeling (TSIM), and it's "an intuitive software tool that empowers doctors and scientists to design, visualize, collaborate, simulate and analyze 3D computer models of complex tissue structures."
It's yet another entrant in a race to replicate the critical structures within the human body with 3D printing. The conceit that scientists will one day be able to bio-print tissues and organs is fast becoming more than a wild scheme, and at the heart of the problem lies the difficulty of printing artificial vascular networks capable of functioning in conjunction with the wild complexity of the human body's circulatory system.
In Kentucky, Advanced Solutions has created what they say is the next generation in 3D printing, the BioAssemblyBot. It's essentially a multi-axis robot which can replicate 3D tissue assemblies of organic design. Using the company's TSIM Software, doctors and researchers can construct biological models for later fabrication with the BioAssemblyBot. Employing laser sensors, a robot arm is used to select a syringe from a storage rack and dispenses organic material of a particular set of characteristics to build, from scratch, a functioning biological model.
Advanced Solutions Life Sciences works on the "discovery, design, development and commercialization of integrated software and hardware solutions for the fields of science that involve living organisms, molecular biology, and biotechnology." That's a mighty big target, but the company sees applications for their technology solutions in the fields of health, agriculture, medicine, medical device manufacturing, the pharmaceutical industry and the food science industry, so the potential rewards are tantalizing indeed.
While the actual use of the device for human, patient-ready biological structures might well be three to five years away, the work being done now in preparation for that day is more than startling, it's a harbinger of a future certain to materialize.
"With TSIM, my team can minimize empirical efforts writing scripts and troubleshooting print-runs," says James Hoying, PhD for the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute. "I can create the desired cellular structure, manipulate, instruct the printer what material to be printed and the integrated system handles the rest, fabricating in real space the object I created in 3D computer space. This is a wonderful, enabling platform for my work."
Once the TSIM software has assembled a precise 3D model of the tissue structure required, cell layers, cell types, their locations, and their attributes are then built by the BioAssemblyBot.
The technology won't be cheap – the price of the machine starts at $159,995 – but when you consider that this patent-pending device uses a six-axis robot arm and can be loaded with up to ten independent delivery systems, the price seems reasonable.
Capable of printing organ structures down to a resolution of 20µm in a 300mm x 250mm x 150mm build volume, the BioAssemblyBot also features automated syringe exchange, automatic calibration of syringe tips, and a variety of utilities aimed at precisely leveling the print bed. The device also includes a live feed of the action as it happens.