We believe that 3D printing is among the most important technologies to make the humanization of space a success. 3D printing enables us to manufacture complex items without the need of running large factories, and hence 3D printing will reduce the need to import goods from Earth by Space Settlements.
Also the developments in the field of stem cell research are going fast, scientists can now create embryo-like stem cells without creating and destroying embryos. In the near future it will be possible to create all kinds of tissue from a random tissue sample of a patient who is in need of such tissue. In this way rejection of tissue by the body is avoided. But tissues are not organs, yet.
Organs are complex structures, often made from different types of tissue. It was only a matter of time, before some one came with the idea of using 3D printers to make organs from patients’ own tissue. And according to an article on Science Daily British scientists have succeeded in the construction of a machine which could be used in the printing of organs.
When printable organs become a widespread reality, organ shortages will become a thing from the past. Also it allows us to avoid the difficult ethical debates surrounding xenotransplantation or the use of organs from executed criminals. A further advantage of this technique is that organ transplantation also becomes available for animals.
In Space Settlements we have a further complication, which will be solved by printable organs. In a small and relatively isolated community as a Space Settlement the issue of organ shortage is much larger, since organs cannot easily be transported from either Earth or another Space Settlement.