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3D Printing:
towards a democratisation of biomimetic technologies

3D printing and additive manufacturing could well hold a bright future for biomimicryThey make possible industrial scale reproduction of natural structures and forms that were difficult to manufacture until now.


Due to the many requirements of manufacturers, as well as the work of many biology laboratories which increase our understanding of living organisms every day, biomimicry has stronlgy developped in the areas of surface coatings, structural design and system architectures.

In this regard, thanks to 3D printing and additive manufacturing, it is gradually becoming possible to copy structures at small scales (micro or nanometric) in order to develop new composites with multifunctional propertiesresistance, flexibility, lightness, aerodynamics, adhesion, thermo-regulation, ...

The democratisation of 3D printing as a production lever is becoming essential to think about the organisation of production chains and manufactured products.

At this very moment, many bio-inspired innovations under development aim to improve existing materials as well as to instrumentalise new materials and processes through 3D printing. To the point where one could legitimately think that the prism of biomimicry increases the field of action of 3D printing and maximizes its relevance.

The three application cases presented below, respectively in the medical fields, aeronautics/defense and construction are particularly illustrative of the potential and challenges to be met for bio-inspired innovation.

3D printing and biomimicry:
bio-engineering revolution

©Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg

Bio-engineering, and more specifically the manufacturing of prosthetics for medical use, takes full advantage of the coupling of 3D printing and biomimicry.


Originally, these could only be made from solid pieces and therefore heavy and mechanically more fragile than biological bones, which are hollow and have an optimal mass/mechanical resistance ratio. However, thanks to 3D printing, it is now possible to reproduce these structures and even make artificial cartilage and ligaments, ensuring reproduction as close as possible to life.


Tailor-made for each patient is also a requirement, because the advent of 3D printing makes the customisation of production both inexpensive and simple to implement. 

Bio-inspired 3D printing: aeronautics and defense are one step ahead!

The aeronautic and defense industries, historical providers of innovations that then spilled over into the civilian sector (GPS, nuclear reactor, etc.), are also at the forefront of 3D printing.


It has already made inroads with several aircraft manufacturers. Since 2015, Airbus has been manufacturing the largest 3D printed cabin component made from an alloy of aluminium, magnesium and scandium.
The world leader was particularly  inspired by the cellular architecture of the myxomycete (or “blob”) and bone development in humans.

This new kind of part, resulting from additive manufacturing, has seen its mass reduced by 30 kg, or nearly 45%. The resulting mass saving means significant fuel savings, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation sector.

Reduce the use of aluminum 

The drastic safety standards that weigh on aircraft manufacturers are not a major technical constraint for 3D printing.

Although the process of certifying parts remains long and costly, certain processes such as additive manufacturing by energy deposition make it possible to print titanium to produce parts that are lighter than their aluminum counterpart.

This remarkable characteristic of 3D printed titanium parts could lead them to gradually replace their aluminum elders: the king metal in the aeronautics industry.

On this technology, some players are now supporting companies to integrate 3D printing into their value chains, including the French group AddUp (a joint venture between the machine tool manufacturer, Fives, and Michelin, the latter being the world leader in volume of parts printed by additive manufacturing in the world).

©Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg

Bio-inspired 3D printing to revolutionize construction.

In construction, materials have also evolved to allow the printing of concrete or metal infrastructures, even as the revolution of the single-family house printed in less than one day.

XtreeE and Egis, for example, recently recreated a reef inspired by coralligenous, using cement specially designed by LafargeHolcim, in order to regenerate marine habitats in the Marseille region.

This approach also validates, in this respect, the wealth of innovations inspired by coral ecosystems after Fortera in the United States developped a cement that generates less CO2 during its production by taking inspiration from the bio-mineralisation of the carbon present in water.

3D printing and biomimicry : 
a marriage for the future

In conclusion, in this period of strong technological innovation resulting in particular from the digital revolution, 3D printing will make it possible to reproduce the organisation of patterns of materials invented by nature, which have given certain organic materials remarkable multifunctional properties (strength, flexibility, lightness, aerodynamics, grip, thermoregulation, etc.) that can bring significant benefits in the industrial world.


It thus completes the advent of biomimicry as a method of innovation and product design. It is also for this reason that Bioxegy is now supporting this revolution by offering its expertise in biomimicry,  its network and innovation methods, to help companies take advantage of the library of life innovations, to rethink their value chain through a subtle but obviously relentless approach.

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