TU Delft Students Win On World Stage With 3D Bacteria Printer

Students from TU Delft have won first prize in a contest in Boston with a 3D printer called The Biolinker. Made of technical K’NEX toys, the Biolinker prints artificial biofilms for industrial or medical applications.

In nature, biofilms are produced by bacteria, algae and fungi. These layers of micro-organisms live in clusters or communities, dental plaque being an example. Biofilms cause numerous human infections, negatively affect water quality and have damaging effects on industrial equipment. Linked by protein nanowires and surrounded by a cellular matrix, biofilms are also incredibly resilient and difficult to remove. As a result, researchers and industry have been searching for artificially formed biofilms on which they can test different industrial removal products.

The problem to date has been that artificially formed biofilms are difficult to reproduce and control. This means that tests can be unreliable and unforeseeable results can occur when biofilm removal products are used in nature.

This 3D printing innovation by TU Delt students however offers an innovation in current biofilm formation technologies. The Biolinker prints layers of a bioink made from bacteria that can bind together into a desired structure. Offering control in terms of how biofilms can be made, along with automation and scalability, the Biolinker makes the formation of artifiical biofilms cheaper, safer and more effective.

This global student competition in the field of the synthetic biology included 259 participating teams. In addition to the grand prize, the TU Delft students also won awards for the best project hardware, best applied and the best website, where you can find detailed information about this innovation.