In June 2019, Orlando, FL-based nScrypt announced a pilot project with the U.S. Military, the Uniformed Services University 4D Bio3 Program, and The Geneva Foundation for bioprinting in an undisclosed, forward-deployed desert environment, using a ruggedized version of nScrypt’s BioAssembly Tool (BAT) bioprinter, called the Austere BioAssembly Tool (ABAT™). Another rugged version of nScrypt’s bioprinter was launched to the International Space Station in July 2019, for the purpose of bioprinting human heart tissue in microgravity.
nScrypt is now launching the nRugged, the first precision 3D printing/bioprinting platform for harsh environments. nRugged is a ruggedized version of nScrypt’s digital manufacturing platform (Factory in a Tool (FIT)), which can be configured for 3D manufacturing or bioprinting in harsh environments, and it can do both with automatic tool changes programmed into the build. The machine can be outfitted with up to four tool heads, in any combination, for microdispensing, material extrusion, milling and polishing, and pick-and-place, using 10,000+ material choices.
The standard machine sports a carbon fiber exoskeleton and 150 ×150 mm heated print bed, and prints 238 mm in the X axis, 173 mm in the Y axis, and 152 mm in the Z axis, but it can be built in other sizes. Optional equipment includes a target view camera (for microscopy and X-Y alignment) and a process view camera (for a live view of the printing tip) for inprocess monitoring and control, a Keyence line scanner or point sensor, and a 4-channel heater controller. No external compressed air is required.
The bioprinter configuration can print both biologics and non-biologics. For example, the ABAT™ version of nRugged recently printed a scalpel handle and hemostat, bioactive bandages with a hydrogel layer containing antibiotics over a flexible structural layer, a surgical model of T9 vertebrae, and a bioprinted meniscus comprised of live mesenchymal stem/stromal cells and a hydrogel scaffold, in a forward-deployed desert environment, in successive builds with automatic tool changes and a broad palette of materials.
Setting up the nRugged printer is almost instantaneous. Its integral packing crate on wheels allows the user to roll the machine to where it is needed, remove the crate lid, plug together the printer, battery case, and electronics case, and start printing. Calibration is automatic and near instantaneous. The nRugged runs on 24-28 VDC power or 100-240 VAC power and can run for up to 48 hours with the battery option, which can be solar charged. The machine and integral crate, which weigh about 220 lbs. (depending on the configuration and options), can be lifted and moved by 3-4 people and pushed by one person. And because it is designed for rapid mobility in harsh environments, the nRugged can print while it is moving, like on a Navy ship in rough waters or on the back of a trailer.
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