3D Printing in Biotech & Pharma

Peptides, proteins, sugars, nucleic acids and fractional distillation, antibody, vaccine, host cells – have i strayed into the wrong conference room?

No not at all.

Actually i am sitting in the comfort of the Waldorf Astoria Berlin at the 6th Annual Biotechnology and Pharma Innovation summit, where Stratasys Strategic consulting have been discussing the potential game changing applications of for printing in this high value process sector.

But why 3D printing for Bio-Pharma?

machine 2

We all know that 3D printing has its limitations when we talk about high volume production economics. We also know that it is more suited for making complicated shaped parts, rather than simple geometries. So maybe a good area for application  is within a sector where high levels of geometric complexity are needed in low volumes and where investment in innovation and technology are a daily occurrence.

Step forward bio-pharma.

This is an industry built on complex interactions between liquids, solids, heat and time. It is an industry where the social and economic value of the products being made far surpasses the investment in the capital equipment needed to make those products.  So why is the sector not using 3D printing more. I would postulate its simply because no one thought to tell them!

But for what will they use it I hear you ask?


Well for starters how about bio-reactors, catalysts, microfluidic devices, heat exchanges, optimized filters, strainers & fluid control valves – all integral parts of a  bio-pharma manufacturing plant. But lets think a bit further up the value chain. How about medical devices used to deliver pharma products, such as inhalers and injection systems, tablets & capsules – OK these are all heavily regulated products, but the guys at this event spend every day working with the regulators to validate new products and processes, so why should 3D printing be any different.

I for one have learned a lot over the last 2-days*. Hopefully, the bio-pharma sector is also a little wiser about the amazing potential of 3D printing. It might be a few years yet until you start to see 3D printed drug in the local pharmacy, but i don’t suspect it will be long until we start to see applications within the manufacturing process chain.

If you want to see what i shared with them – you can download the presentation deck below

3D Printing within Bio-pharma innovation


*Did you know that over 6-million bags of frozen blood plasma are processed in Italy every year in one facility by cryogenically freezing the donor bags, cracking them open and pealing away the plastic from the blood by hand – ‘no automation i hear you scream’


*Did you know that many pharma companies fail to register their IP in Iceland, making it perfectly legal to copy the drugs whilst they are still under patent in the rest of the world. That means you can perfect your bio-similar product (copy), your production processes and scale up technology as well as gaining regulatory approval, perfectly legally, before launching your bio-similar product onto the global market the day the patent expires. Clever or devious – you decide……..