Design and Fabrication of a Low-Cost Three-Dimensional Bioprinter

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Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting offers innovative research vectors for tissue engineering. However, commercially available bioprinting platforms can be cost prohibitive to small research facilities, especially in an academic setting. The goal is to design and fabricate a low-cost printing platform able to deliver cell-laden fluids with spatial accuracy along the X, Y, and Z axes of 0.1 mm. The bioprinter consists of three subassemblies: a base unit, a gantry, and a shuttle component. The platform utilizes four stepper motors to position along three axes and a fifth stepper motor actuating a pump. The shuttle and gantry are each driven along their respective horizontal axes via separate single stepper motor, while two coupled stepper motors are used to control location along the vertical axis. The current shuttle configuration allows for a 5 mL syringe to be extruded within a work envelope of 180 mm × 160 mm × 120 mm (X, Y, Z). The shuttle can easily be reconfigured to accommodate larger volume syringes. An attachment for a laser pen is located such that printing material may be light-activated pre-extrusion. Positional fidelity was established with calipers possessing a resolution to the nearest hundredth millimeter. The motors associated with the X and Y axes were calibrated to approximately 0.02 mm per motor impulse. The Z axis has a theoretical step distance of ∼51 nm, generating 0.04% error over a 10 mm travel distance. The A axis, or pump motor, has an impulse distance of 0.001 mm. The volume extruded by a single impulse is dictated by the diameter of the syringe used. With a 5 mL syringe possessing an inner diameter of 12.35 mm, the pump pushes as little as 0.119 L. While the Z axis is tuned to the highest resolution settings for the motor driver, the X, Y, and A axes can obtain higher or lower resolution via physical switches on the motor drivers.

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Journal of medical devices

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