Production of human skin using the 4D printing process: For this highly sensitive task, French startup Poietis uses a Stäubli six-axis robot in Stericlean design.
A French company is improving the production of artificial human skin with its Next Generation Bioprinting (NGB) platform. Clinical trials will take place this year. Taking part: a Stäubli TX2-40 robot. Under aseptic conditions in an isolator, the robot transports the sections of skin under production from one 3D print head to another.
Poietis, a French startup, has been working on technology to simplify the production of human tissue since 2015. It is possible to “reproduce” human skin or the cornea of the eye, for example. However, the methods for doing so are very expensive: A cornea costs around 100,000 euros. In addition, because there is little standardization or automation of the process, the level of quality is not consistent.
Poietis tackles this task with the tools of industrial automation. The company has developed a robot cell that operates under aseptic conditions. Within the hermetically isolated workspace is a cell culture plate on which the tissue is produced. Multiple print heads print the cells and other materials that also comprise the tissue. The robot moves the tissue being produced from one print head to another, adapting to the various bioprinting methods (laser print and extrusion) integrated into the platform.
When it began developing the Next Generation Bioprinting (NGB) platform, Poietis decided to use a Stäubli TX2-40 six-axis robot in the Stericlean version. This class of robots was developed specifically for medical and pharmaceutical applications and can therefore be completely cleaned and sterilized.
Fabien Guillemot, the company's CEO and Chief Scientific Officer, explains: “The primary reason: Stäubli was and is able to deliver robots in two configurations that precisely match our demanding application profile, both for research and development and for clinical applications. In addition, the robots are GMP compatible and already used for pharmaceutical production and in medical technology.”
The precision and speed of the robots were also persuasive factors. “The TX2-40 enables us to move to the various print heads with high precision, speed, and reproducibility. In addition – and this is extremely important for our application – during operation it does not emit any particles that could contaminate the tissue,” says Guillemot.
Poietis is currently working on the series production of two bioprinters based on the NGB platform: one for research and development and the other for clinical applications. Concurrently, new tasks are already being tested, for example the 4D printing of cartilage – again with a Stäubli robot.
The benefits of the new process are clear: The production of human (skin) tissue is accelerated, it is more cost effective, and it takes place in reproducible quality because the production parameters can be better controlled.
Additionally, the bioprinting production processes used to date are only able to produce the topmost layer of skin (epidermis). The cell culture production process of the NGB platform, on the other hand, can also create the underlying layer – the dermis, which consists primarily of connective tissue.