Fluidform Media

FRESH 3D Printing Used to Rebuild Functional Components of the Human Heart

Carnegie Mellon team overcomes a major obstacle to 3D printing Human Tissue

Scientists have taken a major step closer to being able to 3D bioprint functional organs, after researchers devised a method of rebuilding components of the human heart, according to a study published in the August 2nd edition of Science.

The team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University developed an advanced version of Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technology, to 3D print collagen with unprecedented complexity and construct components of the human heart spanning from small blood vessels to valves to beating ventricles. Recently awarded US patent 10,150,258, FRESH technology is now licensed to FluidForm, a startup committed to dramatically expanding the capability of 3D printing.

“We now have the ability to build constructs that recapitulate key structural, mechanical, and biological properties of native tissues,” said Prof. Adam Feinberg, CTO and co-founder at FluidForm and Principal Investigator of the Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics Group at Carnegie Mellon, where the research was done. “There are still many challenges to overcome to get us to bioengineered 3D organs, but this research represents a major step forward.” 

Though 3D bioprinting has achieved important milestones, direct printing of living cells and soft biomaterials has proved difficult. A key obstacle is supporting soft and dynamic biological materials during the printing process in order to achieve the resolution and fidelity required to recreate complex 3D structure and function.

FRESH uses an embedded printing approach that solves this challenge by using a temporary support gel, making it possible to 3D print complex scaffolds using collagen in its native unmodified form. In the past, researchers were limited because soft materials were difficult to print with high fidelity beyond a few layers in height due to sag. 

Led by co-first authors and FluidForm co-founders Andrew Lee and Andrew Hudson, the nine members of the Carnegie Mellon team overcame these obstacles by developing an approach that uses rapid pH change to drive collagen self-assembly.

Trileaflet heart valve FRESH printed using collagen

Trileaflet heart valve FRESH printed using collagen

The FRESH 3D bioprinted hearts were based on human MRI and accurately reproduced patient-specific anatomical structure. Smaller cardiac ventricles printed with human cardiomyocytes showed synchronized contractions, directional action potential propagation, and wall-thickening up to 14% during peak systole. Challenges remain however, including generating the billions of cells required to 3D print larger tissues, achieving manufacturing scale, and the as yet undefined regulatory process for clinical translation.

While the human heart was used for proof-of-concept, FRESH printing of collagen and other soft biomaterials is a platform that has the potential to build advanced scaffolds for a wide range of tissues and organ systems. 

“FluidForm is extraordinarily proud of the research done in the Feinberg lab” said Mike Graffeo, CEO of FluidForm. “The FRESH technique developed at Carnegie Mellon University enables bioprinting researchers to achieve unprecedented structure, resolution, and fidelity, which will enable a quantum leap forward in the field. We are very excited to be making this technology available to researchers everywhere.”

FluidForm is commercializing FRESH technology via its first product, LifeSupport™ bioprinting support gel, enabling researchers around the world access to high-performance 3D bioprinting of collagen, cells and a wide range of biomaterials.

Company Background

3D Printing of FluidForm Logo in Gel

3D Printing of FluidForm Logo in Gel

FluidForm is a start-up that is defining the future of additive manufacturing. With its commitment to expanding the capability of 3D printing, FluidForm is revolutionizing the field of additive manufacturing by radically expanding the types and combinations of materials that can be 3D printed.

For decades, 3D printing has been limited to a select number of metals, ceramics and plastics that solidify through transient heating or photo-crosslinking. Soft materials such as silicones, and those that take longer to solidify or flow under the effect of gravity, such as epoxies, are more challenging and cannot be effectively 3D printed. 

FluidForm is overcoming these challenges with its patented Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH™). This innovative 3D printing technology provides access to new materials, new design strategies and new applications. 

FluidForm’s patented approach of printing within a support gel, rather than in air, eliminates the effects of gravity and thus expands the materials than can be used. Printed materials are supported in 3D, allowing the design and fabrication of unlimited geometries and multiple materials embedded within one another in a single print. Once printed and cured, the printed construct is gently removed from the gel. FluidForm’s FRESH multi-material technology enables printing of silicones, urethanes, epoxies, liquid metals, biologic materials and much more, serving as the manufacturing platform to revolutionize diverse fields, from aerospace to wearable sensors to regenerative medicine.

FluidForm’s breakthrough approach has the potential to revolutionize five areas of application: 

  • Light-weighting – By 3D printing with fiber-reinforced materials commonly used in the aerospace and automotive industries, we can add strength to components without increasing weight.

  • Wearable sensors – Embedding sensors inside of conformable (and even customizable) wearables allows for a new level of data to be captured, for sports performance, lifestyle, and medical monitoring applications

  • Mass customization manufacturing – Forming body-contacting surfaces (earpieces, eyeglass contours, handles and control surfaces), to provide individual customization with increased comfort, performance, and fatigue resistance

  • Surgical models – Training for surgeons in new techniques and for pre-operative surgical planning, where models must be as life-like as possible, with materials that mimic the anatomy & physiology

  • Medical applications – Manufacturing heart valves, other customized medical devices and ultimately scaffolds and engineered tissues for regenerative medicine applications.

FluidForm’s first product LifeSupport™, a biocompatible support gel for bioprinting research, is currently available. 

To deliver on their goal of developing a suite of gels and printing hardware to enable 3D printing of any material, FluidForm is actively seeking development partners for applications in silicones, epoxies, and other industrial applications. FluidForm has locations in Pittsburgh and the Boston area. 

Meet FluidForm'S Founders

FluidForm was founded by a dedicated and experienced group of scientists, industry veterans, educators, and inventors on four separate patent applications.

Mike Graffeo – CEO

Mike Graffeo, CEO

Mike Graffeo, CEO

A senior executive with a proven track record in commercialization of innovative medical technology, Mike is a results-oriented, decisive leader with a track record of successfully growing new businesses in both startup and growth organizations. Throughout his career, he has gained extensive experience translating highly complex devices and clinical data into successful businesses, both in the US and globally. Most recently, he was Vice President, Business Development for Drug Delivery at Insulet Corporation. Previously, he held Sales and Marketing leadership roles at OvaScience and Dune Medical, and has launched novel FDA-approved devices at both Johnson & Johnson and Cytyc/Hologic. Mike holds a BS in Engineering Physics and an MEng in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University, as well as an MBA with high distinction (Baker Scholar) from Harvard Business School. 

Adam Feinberg – CTO

Adam Feinburg, Chief Technology Officer

Adam Feinburg, Chief Technology Officer

Dr. Adam Feinberg is CTO and co-founder of FluidForm. The core technology of FRESH printing was developed in his Regenerative Biomaterials and Therapeutics lab at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where he is a Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. His group develops materials-based, engineering strategies to control the self-organization and assembly of various cell types into tissues.

Adam earned his Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University, and his MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Florida. He performed his postdoctoral work at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Harvard University. He holds more than 20 US patents and patent applications, has authored over 45 publications, and is a member of the Materials Research Society, American Chemical Society, Society for Biomaterials, Biophysical Society, Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Heart Association.

Andrew Hudson, Chief Operations Officer

Andrew Hudson, Chief Operations Officer

Andrew Hudson – COO

Andrew is a co-founder of FluidForm and leads the development, manufacturing and scale-up efforts of LifeSupport™. His research focuses on developing the next generation of techniques for vascularizing 3D-bioprinted tissues to improve the clinical translational potential of tissue engineered therapies.


TJ Hinton
– Inventor, Scientific Advisor, and cofounder
Andrew Lee – Inventor, Scientific Advisor, and cofounder



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