Unusual printer supplies may have been needed by one institution which has used a 3D inkjet printer to develop a material similar to that found in human bones.

The team, from Washington State University (WSU) in the US say it could be used in dental work, orthopaedic procedures and to treat conditions such as osteoporosis.

It works by using inkjet nozzles to spray a plastic binder over a bed of powder about half the thickness of a human hair, before computer directions shape it into a scaffold about the size of a pencil eraser – on which new bone can be grown.

The scientists state the result "looks like bone. It feels like bone. For the most part, it acts like bone".

Co-author of the report and professor at WSU's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Susmita Bose said lab tests on rats and rabbits are going well and, if they are successful, doctors could be able to order custom replacement bone tissue in the near future.

The technology used in 3D printers have improved immensely in the last few years, the Guardian stated recently, which could lead to a new era for manufacturing, both in industrial and home environments.