Applikon Biotechnology develops and produces advanced bioreactor systems, that are used in the pharmaceutical industry and industrial biotechnology. BPO has developed a mini bioreactor (500ml) for single use in cooperation with Applikon. The headplate of the newly developed bioreactor is manufactured using selective laser sintering (SLS).

Traditional Applikon bioreactors for similar uses are made of glass and stainless steel. However, for single use purposes a plastic version is needed. Together with Applikon BPO made a list of requirements and analysed the feasibility of different production techniques. The customizability of the design (tailor made solutions) is a very important theme and was the main driving factor in the decision to use an SLS headplate.

BPO and Applikon then optimised the geometry of the design for manufacturing in SLS. For this optimisation, one can think of even wall thicknesses to keep the shrinkage even, strategically placed cams and ribs that limit the tolerance chains, an adapted spindle opening and seals that are compatible with the surface roughness of the 3D printed material. Of course, all this without concessions to the user experience and functional requirements like the connection to the motor, the hoses, the sensors and other connections. Finally, BPO has integrated as many parts as possible and optimised the geometry for simple assembly.

Using 3D printing as a production technique, it is possible to deliver “customized mass production”, a promising route that is not (yet) taken very often. With the realisation of the bioreactor headplate in 3D printing Applikon shows a ground breaking innovation, that came to be by combining the specific knowledge of the end user market of Applikon with the broad design and engineering experience of BPO.

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