AM for SpaceBioprinting

Redwire’s upgraded BFF 3D bioprinter installed on ISS

It will be used to print a human meniscus as part of the BFF-Meniscus-2 investigation

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Redwire’s BFF, the 3D BioFabrication Facility is America’s first bioprinter with a permanent home on the International Space Station (ISS). In early 2023, NASA astronauts successfully installed an upgraded BFF that allows greater temperature control when printing with bioinks that are sensitive to temperatures, as well as Redwire’s Advanced Space Experiment Processor (ADSEP), used in conjunction with BFF.

Both payloads launched on Northrop Grumman’s 18th commercial resupply mission to the ISS on November 7, 2022. BFF will be used to produce a full 3D printed human knee meniscus with the BFF-Meniscus-2 investigation, which will explore how space bioprinting could help treat meniscal injuries affecting U.S. military service members.

After NASA Astronaut Josh Cassada loaded test cassettes from ADSEP and new bioinks into BFF, our Payload Operations Control Center took over to test the new facility’s ability to finely control the temperature of the print heads, a new capability for BFF. Teams completed two successful complex test prints with a variety of bioink viscosities. No human cells were included in these test prints, and the test cassettes will be returned to Redwire for refurbishment and future reuse.

Redwire’s 3D BioFabrication Facility successfully installed on the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

The BFF-Meniscus-2 investigation is a collaboration between Redwire and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Center for Biotechnology (4DBio3), a biomedical research center that explores and adapts promising biotechnologies for warfighter benefit. Meniscal injuries are one of the leading orthopedic injuries for U.S. military service members.

Once BFF prints the meniscus with living human cells in the bioinks, it will be transferred to ADSEP to be cultured for 14 days to produce the full meniscus. After printing, the meniscus will be stored for return and analysis back on Earth. BFF-Meniscus-2 builds on a 2019 experiment where the BFF 3D printed a meniscus scaffold using bioink derived from human tissue proteins.

As a permanent fixture to the ISS, BFF will be able to explore new opportunities in biomedical and pharmaceutical research.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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