3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
Dying patients could someday receive a 3D-printed organ made from their own cells rather than wait on long lists for the short supply of organ transplants. Such a futuristic dream remains far from reality, but university labs and private companies have already taken the first careful steps by using 3D-printing technology to build tiny chunks of organs.
Regenerative medicine has already implanted lab-grown skin, tracheas and bladders into patients — body parts grown slowly through a combination of artificial scaffolds and living human cells. By comparison, 3D-printing technology offers both greater speed and computer-guided precision in printing living cells layer by layer to make replacement skin, body parts and perhaps eventually organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys.