3D printed bionic ear – electronics and biology converge




scientists over at princeton university have combined electronics with biology to create a 3D printed bionic ear. the artificial organ is a result of the team’s exploration into using the prototyping technique to print out cells and nano particles. purchasing a basic 3D printer online, the researchers, lead by michael alpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, used the additive technology–which allowed them to render the complex topology of the ear–to layer a matrix of hydrogel and calf cells (which eventually develop into cartilage) to build up the form; along with silver nanoparticles to form an antenna. the thin sensory appendage is coiled within the tissue-like structure, with two wires leading from the base of the ear, wrapping around a helical cochlea that ultimately connects to electrodes. it is the team’s first attempt at developing a fully functioning organ, and the intended use of the resulting organ could be used much like a hearing aid, to restore or advance human hearing.


earlier this year, we reported on a group of scientists and physicians  at cornell university who engineered a 3D printed ear to treat children born with a congenital deformity called microtia. read more about that on designboom here.