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Biotech Hardware Hacking Printer Build Hardware

Old Inkjet Becomes New Bio-Materials Printer 39

Posted by timothy
from the but-the-ink-is-so-expensive dept.
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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Old Inkjet Becomes New Bio-Materials Printer

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  • by msauve (701917) on Friday January 25, 2013 @07:56PM (#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?
  • Thermal or Piezo? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:03PM (#42697107) Journal

    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?

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      > 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

      • 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

        • 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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      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 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 rese

  • This document tastes like chicken!

  • Now this is news for nerds!
  • by LuxuryYacht (229372) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:20PM (#42697245) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      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?

      • by volmtech (769154)
        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.
      • 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 j

      • 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 unaw

        • by Raenex (947668)

          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

  • Thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday January 25, 2013 @08:22PM (#42697275)

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

    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      1. Google bioprinter on net
      2. Program network bioprinter to create highly illegal biologicals
      3. Call the cops.
      4. PROFIT!
    • 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....

  • 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.

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

    • by skids (119237)

      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.

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

  • Is that what passes for a "hack" these days? Here's a real hack [slashdot.org] that everyone can get excited about.
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

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

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