3D Print Tiny Bio-Bots

How to 3D print, mold and seed moving bio-bots? The Micro & Nanotechnology Laboratory and Department of Mechanical Science & Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign gives instructions. Engineers rule!


(how to 3D print, mold and seed moving bio-bots

Rashid Bashir, the head of bioengineering at the University of Illinois says, "This work represents an important first step in the development and control of biological machines that can be stimulated, trained, or programmed to do work. It’s exciting to think that this system could eventually evolve into a generation of biological machines that could aid in drug delivery, surgical robotics, ‘smart’ implants, or mobile environmental analyzers, among countless other applications."

The bio-bots are made in a 3D printed flexible hydrogel (stable in water), and are laced with muscle cells. Movement of the muscle cells is activated by a low-voltage electric charge (between 1 & 4 hertz).

It also takes an approximately 8 days to complete when broken down into the three core stages:

  • 3D printing of the injection molds – 3 hours
  • Seeding the muscle actuators with cells – 2 hours
  • Differentiating the muscle – 7 days

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke told us (and me, since I read this book when it came out) about this idea in 1972, in his still-current novel Rendezvous With Rama; he used a much more compact word - biot - to describe them:

...now life, with all its infinite possibilities, had come to Rama. If the biological robots were not living creatures, they were certainly very good imitations.

No one knew who invented the word "biot"; it seemed to come into instant use, by a kind of spontaneous generation.
(Read more about Clarke's biots)

The term was used to describe creations like the spider tripod robots that Rama seemed to spontaneously generate for self-cleaning whenever an energy source (a sun) became available.

Science fiction fans were introduced to the idea of "artificial life - living machines" as early as 1926 by Edmond Hamilton in his story Across Space.

Via 3D Printing Industry.

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