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MIT researchers develop xPrint, open-source modular bio and smart material printer
The xPrint is an opensource plotter that’s built with off-the-shelf parts and can print using a range of synthesized polymers and natural micro-organism-living cells with incredible accuracy (10 micron up to 5mm) thanks in part to the modular nature of the print head. So instead of printing with traditional ink, we suddenly find ourselves with the ability to create using space-aged liquid composites that benefit researchers (drug delivery systems), artists (colour changing patterns) and anyone that works in textiles thanks to Natto cells printing.
The research paper behind the xPrint discusses inspiration from the maker community (even extracting influence from syringe based chocolate 3D printers) and detail how utilizing an open-source mindset was a major driving force for the project. Noting that current systems that are capable of creating smart materials are crippled by “unavoidable hardware configuration constraints and non-open sourced firmware.”
At its core, the machine includes a standard three-axis CNC platform, two mounting substrates for attaching modular components, and a central control system. Modifications such as ventilation, a UV Curing lamp, webcam, and pneumatic pressure dispenser have all been tested out on materials dependant on them.