Need an organ? Just PRINT it!

Damage your liver? Don’t sweat it. All you have to do is PRINT.

Yes you read right. Printing off an organ- sounds like something you see in science-fiction movies. Apparently it is becoming a reality SOON.

Let’s go back in time for a bit and see where it all started…  



Human are one creative creature! We started off with printing word documents on a piece of paper. The same printing logic is then further developed and out goes the first working 3D printer by 1984. This allows the ability to print manufacturing parts used in airplanes and electronic devices. 




A sculpture being printer using 3D printer(Under Flickr Licensing)

 Click  to see a 3D printer in action


A few years down the track? The medicine sector has its share of success. The ability of printing prosthetic limbs, hearing aids and dental fixtures to restore loss functions became a reality.


Voila! Meet the ‘bioprinter’. Organovo, a San Diego-based company, expanded the field of regenerative medicine and launched the first bioprinter. Unlike previous 3D printers, bioprinter uses bio-ink (mixture of living cells) to form layers of cells and eventually out comes a 3D tissue.

A version of Bioprinter (source: Flickr Licensing)


Okay I lied – printing off an organ is NOT YET possible, not impossible.

Despite sounding like an easy job, it is not.  Printing off a whole organ is a different story. An organ such as heart and liver has extensive blood vessels and detailed microstructure, in which the bioprinter is unable to mimic exactly. Previous 3D printers are able to change the shape, depending on the digital image. Conversely, human organs not only change its shape but also composition, type and orientation of cells. Of course, convincing FDA that this technology is safe remains to be one of the hardest problems.

Even if one manages to print the organ, the process of implanting it into the patient’s body involves in invasive surgical process. One has to ensure that the implanted organ induces the right factors inside our body and receives the required nourishment. Most importantly the implanted organ should not elicit any immune response (immune rejection). Ideally, we would want to print organs directly in the human body.

Despite the challenges in printing organs, companies and universities are taking advantage of this new technology to print other things including tissues for drug testing and food (Pssttt click here to see chocolate being printed )

Due to the complexity of organs, it will be years or decades before we see this happening. On saying that there is a possibility of printing organs, we should still take good care of our body so you don’t find yourself on that list of people waiting for a printed organ.



  1. Herald Online: 3D printing is new way of manufacturing. (2013). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from
  2. National Geographic Known Universe: Print Tools [Video]. (2011). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from;end=4:54;cycles=-1;autoreplay=false;showoptions=false
  3. Organ Printing [Video]. (2009). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from
  4. The New York Times: At the Printer, Living Tissue. (2013). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from
  5. EPSRC video: World’s first chocolate printer [Video]. (2011). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from
  6. The New York Times: 3D Printers to make things you need or like. (2013). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from



Faustina Sari Setiawan is a Msc Biotech student in the University of Melbourne. She needs this technology to come true just because she is a sugar addict and might need a new liver soon. 

19 Responses to “Need an organ? Just PRINT it!”

  1. setiawan says:

    Thank you all.

    @ksombatthave and Darwin: Ya I hope this technology will be up soon. At the rate I’m going with sugar food consumption, I would need a back up heart. :p

  2. Darwin says:

    Very interesting post Sari. Hopefully this technology will be available in the near future.

  3. ksombatthave says:

    Great post Sari! I almost trusted the machine is available haha…but yeah I really hope we will have such technology someday soon 🙂

  4. setiawan says:

    Thank you for the comments

    @Vivian: I’m not exactly sure how that is possible actually, but the current view is that they will try to print it on a small chip that will be implanted into the body and hopefully that chip will grow into an organ eventually. Though it sounds really cool, I do find lots of the articles and literature over-exaggerating, putting people’s hope up too high.

  5. Devneet Singh Virdi says:

    Hey i enjoyed reading your blog!!
    Great choice of topic 🙂

  6. Mel says:

    I guess with the advancement of technology everything will be possible!

  7. Rizky says:

    This is really good technology. I wish it would come true soon.

  8. Vivian Loh says:

    Fascinating, only if the machine actually exists now 🙁

    One question though: “Ideally, we would want to print organs directly in the human body.” How can this be made possible?!

  9. whlau says:

    Great Post! I wish I day a can print out a second brain if I got Parkinson’s disease….:P

  10. setiawan says:

    @Wendy: Yup I heard about it too. 🙂

  11. Wendy Nguyen says:

    They have a company in Melbourne offering 3D printing service.

  12. setiawan says:

    @jeane: glad you like the post. I agree this is one of the more useful invention. 🙂

  13. setiawan says:

    @serene: glad you enjoy reading it. I wish to try it too, hopefully not to print an organ though 🙂

  14. Jeane Angelina says:

    Nice post! I really like the video about printing chocolate. Anyway this takes my interest more than the organ hihi (since I’m still taking a good care of my organs *proud* and now I really want chocolate). But, in my point of view, I really like this innovation as if kidney, for instance being transplanted from one person to another, that particular donor might be in trouble (not as fit as before), whereas with this invention, no one being disadvantaged! Thanks for sharing :p

  15. Serene says:

    What a fascinating post! This machine is some sort like cloning a new organ or cell, but i think it is much more faster than cloning technique. Apart from that, I think the cost of printing a new organ must be very expensive. Still, if the machine do exist in the world, i would like to have a try and see what exactly happens in there. Anyways, thanks for sharing such an amazing technology! Good job!

  16. setiawan says:

    Thanks guys and glad you guys enjoy it.

    @Yogi: I guess one day we would be able to print another human but definitely not anytime soon, considering that printing an organ itself is still not possible. However I think to print a human is another different thing and the ethical and regulation would be far more complex than printing an organ.

  17. yogi alwendra says:

    Hi Sari, that’s a well-written article. Interestingly, your thought on 3D printing organs also has come to my mind when I saw first this device on you tube. I made a discussion with a scientist who sit next to me. Even we discussed on can we print another human? Hmmm…it is impossible as there is substance that we call soul existing inside our body. This substance links to all our organs. Yet, we certainly still do not about this knowledge in the future.

  18. reiti says:

    I find 3D printing really interesting, and the applications to it can be amazing!

  19. ccroft says:

    I think its great what medical science can now do, this is one of my favorite possibilities for organ replacement, because it would be so quick and easy, you don’t even have to grow the cells!!

    Another thing I think will be fascinating with 3D printing, is that the technology is getting cheaper. So in maybe even a few years, there will be one in every home!! And it will be interesting to see what will happen to the manufacturing industry, as certain elements of the industry will no longer be viable, as people can just print an item they need!!

    Great blog on up coming technology!!