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Handheld 3D skin printer wins global innovative design award

July 22, 2020

The ReverTome handheld 3D skin printer, a collaborative research effort between the University of Toronto (U of T) and Sunnybrook, has been awarded the top prize by the 3D Pioneers Challenge (3DPC), one of the world's highest-endowed design awards for innovation in 3D printing.

Now in its fifth year, the 3DPC seeks to uncover specialists from around the world who are breaking new ground and pushing boundaries in the field of 3D printing.

The joint U of T/Sunnybrook team was selected as the winner of both the MedTech category and the overall winner of the competition by 21 members of the international jury in a multistage selection process, the first time the top prize of €10.000 has been awarded to a Canadian team. The competition had received submissions from 28 countries, with 52 being declared finalists.

“It was clear to the jury that this project in the MedTech category had to be the overall winner of 3DPC 2020. This mature functional project is used in one of the most important areas [and] combines innovative additive technologies and revolutionary new materials,” the organizers of 3DPC said in a news release.

The handheld 3D skin printer project is led by U of T’s Richard Cheng and Axel Guenther, in deep collaboration with Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre, and his team at Sunnybrook. Their successful in-vivo trials on full-thickness wounds were documented in Biofabrication, and their research is supported by Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine (OIRM) and Toronto Hydro.

“There were so many excellent submissions from around the world, and we had some tough competition. For our project to be chosen as the overall winner is a huge honour,” says Dr. Jeschke.

Click to view plain-text version of infographic

A photo of the skin printer with labels that explain parts of the device:
Syringe drive system
Temperature controlled scaffolds
Cell Containing Biopolymer 
Compliant wheel tuned for soft tissue surface
Microfluidic Printhead

To cover a large burn, the ReverTome handheld 3D skin printer is used like a paint roller: covering an area with a uniform sheet of biomaterial, stripe by stripe. The ink itself is comprised of mesenchymal stroma cells (MSCs) — stem cells that differentiate into specialized cell types depending on its environment. In this case, it promotes skin regeneration and reduction in scarring.

While device is still in the clinical trial phase, Dr. Jeschke believes the handheld skin printer could be used in a clinical setting within the next five years.

“Once it’s used in an operating room, I think this printer will be a game changer in saving lives,” he says.

“With a device like this, it could change the entirety of how we practice burn and trauma care.”

Learn more about the skin printer 

Watch the awards ceremony on Youtube (1st prize is awarded at the 1h20min mark and see the full list of winners at