After a busy Balkans tour during the past weeks the Vitaprint returns home. We attended the Additive days conference in Sofia, the iCAT conference in Maribor, the pilot event of FabNoviSad and the lecture series on cellular agriculture at the BioSense institute in Novi Sad as well as the “STE(A)M tjedan“, organized at the technical museum in collaboration with FabLab Zagreb.
In the first week of October Boštjan took an aeroplane to the capital of Bulgaria where the first event took place. The venue of Additive days was the Sofia Tech Park – a modern complex of business, innovation and education, established by the government to act as an important hub for excellent science and technology in Bulgaria and the Balkans. Additive days was the first conference of its kind in the country, giving insight into additive manufacturing to a broader public, but also establishing connections between national and international organizations that are involved in the field. Vitaprint was invited for a talk on open-source 3D bioprinting and its applications, as well as a live demonstration of the Vitaprint platform. At the event, we had the opportunity to chat with interesting people, who are using 3D printing for exceptional and innovative applications, such as designer Lilian van Daal who makes biomimetic furniture, or Dr. Dimitar Slavov, who is developing 3D printed devices for atomic spectroscopy at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Boštjan also had a chat with Spas Kerimov, the CEO of Printivo, the first bioprinting start-up based in Sofia.
Making a short stop back home in Maribor, the Vitaprint team was representing Institute IRNAS at the International Conference of Additive Technologies, organized by prof. Igor Drstvenšek and the Faculty of mechanical engineering. The two day event had two focal points, day one was oriented at the use of additive manufacturing in the medical sector, where engineers and medical doctors alike were sharing their experience in repairing skeletal damage, development of surgical guides, personalized tools and more, all made with 3D printing. As a part of this session, Boštjan gave a talk on custom 3D bioprinting solutions that are possible with Vitaprint and together with Luka Banović they demonstrated 3D printing of custom materials on site. The event gathered experts from research and industry either developing or using additive manufacturing for medical or construction purposes.
The third happening in the Vitaprint Balkans tour took place in Novi Sad, Serbia, where we attended two events organized by Ivana Gadjanski, a researcher at BioSense institute and one of the founders of FAB initiative in Serbia. The first event was a lecture series on cellular Agriculture at the BioSense Institute, where Boštjan gave a presentation on bioprinting and discussed applications in the field, on an experimental, as well as industrial scale. The event was also an opportunity to formalize collaboration between institutes IRNAS and BioSense, to meet the researchers and participate in a guided tour through their lab spaces. BioSense institute was founded as interdisciplinary platform for the development of innovative and need-driven solutions for agriculture. Cellular agriculture has seen a fast rise in recent years and will likely become one of the main approaches to the future of food production. However, efficiency and cost reduction will be vital for further development and this could be a cornerstone of collaboration between IRNAS and BioSense.
The second event in Novi Sad was FabNoviSad – a pilot event for the promotion and engagement of the broader public into digital fabrication, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education and entrepreneurship. There Boštjan and Vojislav were demonstrating some of the solutions and the process of complete systems development we are specializing on at IRNAS.
The final stop of the Vitaprint Balkans tour took place in Zagreb, where Boštjan attended “STE(A)M tjedan“, organized at the technical museum in collaboration with FabLab Zagreb. The purpose of this event was to provide students, teachers as well as decision-makers a deeper insight into STEAM education and it’s connection to FabLabs and Makerspaces, all of which is still less-known in the country. At the event, Boštjan gave a lecture for biology teachers from all around Croatia on the subject of 3D bioprinting, its current and future applications as well as some insight into regional development in this field.
Being present at these events fortifies the position of Vitaprint as one of the main 3D bioprinting platforms in the broader Balkans area. In the region, which is rapidly adopting additive manufacturing not only for fablabs and makerspaces, but also for STEAM education, medical research, etc., this holds immense potential for new collaboration opportunities. We’ve had very interesting discussions with members of the manufacturing industry, designers, start-ups, as well as academics from the medical and agri-food sectors. The common message was quite universal: We share a need for broader collaboration and the establishment of a Balkan network for additive technologies as a link between industry, research and education, with the goal of higher competitiveness of the region in general. The medical and agri-food sectors are and will continue to adopt additive technologies on a global scale, which presents an opportunity for their development. While general economic development of the Balkans is lagging, the adoption of rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing in this region is exceptional and represents an important opportunity for future development. Being part of this process will not only be interesting and challenging, but could also produce extraordinary results.