[I]nstead of traditional ink or a material like plastic, the 3D printer cartridge contains something called bioink made of hundreds of thousands of live cells. Once printed in the desired shape, the bioink particles naturally fuse to form living tissue. This process of bioprinting biomaterials is similar to attempts to print artificial organs for transplants - but the result could well end up in your frying pan.
The real benefit is related to the shape of the meat we eat, though: burgers, steaks and plenty of other cuts have lateral dimensions that are much bigger than their thickness. That makes them perfect candidates for 3D printing, which could theoretically speed up the process of making lab-grown meat. But just like the devices used for prototyping products using plastics, bio-printing is still in its infancy—and so incredibly expensive.
So while there's certainly promise—after all, a Dutch team has already showcased a small piece of 3D-printed artificial meat which was 2cm long, 1cm wide and about 1mm thick—current estimates suggest a whole hamburger created in this way would cost $300,000. Not quite competing with McDonald's yet, then. [BBC]
Image by kadluba under Creative Commons license