Inks for 2D/3D printing

Novel additive manufacturing processes are currently being worked on in a variety of research fields. Among the established printing techniques, inkjet printing offers a highly attractive technique for creating two-dimensional or three-dimensional structures that are previously designed on a computer.

Our work focuses on the development of suitable ink formulations to process diverse functional components such as hydrogels, nano- and microparticles, proteins and cells.


  • Formulation of aqueous or solvent-based inkjet inks
  • Biofunctional inks
  • Cell-containing inks
  • Nano- and microparticle containing inks
  • UV-curable inks
  • Conductive and semiconductor inks
  • Printing of high-resolution structures
  • Laser printing polymer particles for biomaterial


  • Production of medical assays, rapid tests
  • Production of tissue models for diagnostic and pharmacological tests
  • Production of personalized implants

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Biological materials for 3D printing


Hydrogel-based materials for ink formulation


Biofunctional and cell-containing inks


Particulate inks

Gelatin-based bioink with adjusted viscosity.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Gelatin-based bioink with adjusted viscosity.

Hydrogel-based materials for ink formulation

For 2D/3D printing, Fraunhofer IGB develops e.g. initiator-free crosslinking biocompatible hydrogels and equips biopolymers with crosslinkable groups or functionalities by chemical modification. This allows the solubility properties and viscosity to be controlled and an adaptation to the different requirements of additive processes such as inkjet printing or pneumatic dispensing to be made possible.

We want to enable biopolymers such as gelatin, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate to modify surfaces and build three-dimensional tissue models. To control the physicochemical properties of biomolecules and hydrogels, we couple chemical functions such as crosslinkable methacrylic groups, thiol groups and benzophenones to the biopolymers and mask functional groups responsible for gelling of the materials.

In cooperation with the IGVP at the University of Stuttgart, we are also developing printable and crosslinkable cell-compatible polyethylene glycols.

Adaption of the surface tension of inkjet inks.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Adaption of the surface tension of inkjet inks.

Biofunctional and cell-containing inks

If the inks contain biological materials such as biomolecules, cells, tissue preparations or biocompatible materials, the printed structures can perform a biological function. The biomaterial in its non-crosslinked, printable form is referred to as a bioink. The composition of these inks depends on the subsequent application. Thus, bioinks can be formulated with and without cells.

Bioinks for tissue engineering applications are optimized for the printing process and at the same time for the promotion of tissue-specific functions through targeted variation of the composition. We have already successfully produced "bone inks" and "vascularization inks" based on the available material construction kit. Both bioinks are dispersions of biomolecules and tissue-specific cells that can be stably formed into a 3D structure via dispensing processes.

Protein-containing bioinks should be processable while maintaining the native functionality of the proteins. We achieve this by using water-soluble and protein-compatible components. These inks can be used, for example, to make specific areas on a substrate attractive for adhesion of different cell types.


At a glance: R&D offer

  • Printing devices
  • Biomaterials
  • Chemical modifications
  • Features and applications
  • Analysis
  • Cells and tissues
Gedruckte Partikelschichten im Druckwerk des Hochpräzisionsdruckers DMP 3000.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Printed particle layers in the printing unit of the DMP 3000 high-precision printer.

Particulate inks

Nanoparticles have the potential to transport a variety of functions: Both the properties of the particle shell, such as being equipped with certain chemical groups and the loading of the particle core with dyes or active components, which are released after printing, for example in contact with water, can contribute to the systematic design of material properties. We are developing inkjet-compatible formulations at the Fraunhofer IGB, for the targeted and structured application of suspensions of functional nanoparticles. For example, we have developed a water-based ink for coating surfaces with charged nanoparticles. These inks could find their application in the production of sensitive rapid tests based on nucleic acid microarrays.

Reference projects


Printable 3D matrices for the engineering of bioartificial cartilage


A promising therapy for cartilage damage is the matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte transplantation (MACT), in which a suitable material (matrix) is seeded with the patient's cartilage cells (chondrocytes) and then implanted into the damaged cartilage.


January 2017 – December 2019


Personalized orthopedic implants through biomechanical stimulation of hybrid materials

There is an increasing interest in personalized therapies for the treatment of injuries or age‑related degeneration of cartilage tissue. One solution is the production of individual cartilage implants using additive manufacturing methods. For this purpose, Fraunhofer IGB is developing gelatin‑based hybrid hydrogels that mimic the natural tissue environment of cartilage cells and thus promote the biofunctionality and matrix production of the cells.



European TRIANKLE project will develop 3D bioprinted personalised scaffolds for tissue regeneration of ankle joint

The Research consortium is composed of 12 partners from 5 European countries and counts with a EU funding of €5.9M. TRIANKLE will provide fabrication of personalized implants for injured tendons or cartilages. Fraunhofer IGB will formulate and develop collagen- and gelatine-based bio-inks needed for 3D printing the personalised implants while the IGVP at the University of Stuttgart will research the bio-ink crosslinking chemistry and 3D-printing of bio-inks.