3D Bioprinting is an emerging technology in the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine and it is bound to bring about a revolution in the healthcare industry. The primary objective of 3D bioprinting is to fabricate three dimensional tissue constructs, which recapitulate the native tissue environment and mimic its micro-architecture. In recent years, many leading industries and researchers have successfully developed living tissues, such as patient-specific bone tissue constructs by professors from Texas University, Human Epidermal Model (Innoskin®) by Next big Innovation Labs®, human heart valves by researches of Carnegie Mellon University.

It is predicted that 3D bioprinting industry will register a compound annual growth rate of 21.91% over the next five years, with an expected increase in global market value from $ 586.13 Million in 2019 to $ 4.2 Billion in 2027. In consequence, the demand for experienced and skilled workforce in 3D bioprinting industry has also significantly increased. Since this industry requires interdisciplinary skill set, engineers from diverse domains join hands to collaboratively work together towards the overall progress of the field.

3D bioprinting is a form of additive manufacturing which uses especially formulated bioinks, a combination of cells, hydrogels, growth factor, serum, proteins, synthetic polymers etc. as per the requisite needs of desired tissue construct. This technology enables the deposition of hydrogel with encapsulated cells in pre-determined patterns as specified by computer aided design models. Along with the emergence of this advancing technology, it is essential to be vigilant of the upcoming challenges. As manufacturing and production pipelines of 3D bioprinters and bioprinted products are getting smarter and more disruptive, it is critical to ensure that young engineers, designers and bio-material specialists know how to utilize their skills in a cumulative manner to enhance this emerging technology. For instance, advanced automation techniques, evolved operational software and improved array of product specific bioinks are the latest developments in 3D bioprinting industry.

With rapidly increasing market value of 3D bioprinting industry, the demand of well skilled biofabrication experts are also surging. A biofabrication expert is one who has expertise in both engineering and biological domain. The engineering compartment of the biofabrication expert’s brain primarily focuses on mechanical designing, mechanical engineering, 3D modelling, PCB designing, automation techniques and IoT, the biological portion of the brain primarily focuses on post processing analysis which involves molecular biology techniques, immuno-histo-compatibility assays, protein expression studies, biomaterial sciences and gene expression studies. Young scientists or engineers willing to develop a career using bioprinting technology either in an academic or industrial sector are expected to develop an amalgamation of these interdisciplinary skill sets. Due to the required interdisciplinary mindset, it becomes quite challenging for recruiters to find suitable candidates who have the perfect balance of these skill sets.

Bioprinting of a scaffold
3D printing of bioceramic slurry

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To ensure the adaptability of 3D Bioprinting in broader scale it is essential to address the wide skill gap that exists in today’s market. Various training programs, courses or webinars can be a mode to educate the young engineers and researchers with necessary knowledge and skill set to adapt in the bioprinting industry. Hence, making it easier for the industry to hire candidates with appropriate knowledge, which in turn leads the overall development of the sector.

The need of expanding skilled workforce is a major concern that has to be addressed for the overall upliftment of the industry by bridging the skill gaps amongst the enthusiasts and researchers alike. Hence, it is imperative to align the educational knowledge provided in institutes with the skill set requirements of the industry. 3D bioprinting skill development needs to be systematically structured for students at different educational levels beginning from schools to colleges. This will bring a great opportunity to spread the awareness amongst the young minds of the world and introduce them to the modern bio-manufacturing techniques and acquaint them about its fascinating future prospects. University graduates can be offered internships or company sponsored fellowships to help students meet up to the employer expectations and enter technical jobs easily.

If we can successfully address these barriers, 3D bioprinting technology has the potential to pave the path to numerous uncharted innovative research realms. Skill gaps can always be overcome by the cumulative effort of curious and hardworking enthusiasts from varied fields with diverse skill sets collaboratively working together towards bridging the gap between transplantable organ demand and availability – the holy grail of 3D Bioprinting.

Author - Ankita Gupta

Ankita is a Bioprinting Engineer at Next Big Innovation Labs. She is an enthusiastic and a creative person at heart, looking for a platform to invest her creative ideas. She comes from a background in Biotechnology, with an added experience of 3D printing and Bioprinting. Being an avid technology enthusiast, her goal is to apply her knowledge and skills towards the enhancement of the 3D Bioprinting and 3D Printing domain as a whole.

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