Designing Cost-Effective Open-Source Multihead 3D Bioprinters
Over the past decade, additive manufacturing has resulted in significant advances toward fabricating anatomic-size, patient-specific scaffolds for tissue models and regenerative medicine. This can be attributed to the development of advanced bioinks capable of precise deposition of cells and biomaterials. The combination of additive manufacturing with advanced bioinks is enabling researchers to fabricate intricate tissue scaffolds that recreate the complex spatial distributions of cells and bioactive cues found in the human body. However, the expansion of this promising technique has been hampered by the high cost of commercially available bioprinters and proprietary software. In contrast, conventional 3D printing has become increasingly popular with home hobbyists and caused an explosion of both low-cost thermoplastic 3D printers and open-source software to control the printer. In this work, we bring these benefits into the field of bioprinting by converting widely available and cost-effective 3D printers into fully functional, open-source, and customizable multi-head bioprinters. These bioprinters utilize computer-controlled volumetric extrusion, allowing bioinks with a wide range of flow properties to be bioprinted, including non-Newtonian bioinks. We demonstrate the practicality of this approach by designing bioprinters customized with multiple extruders, automatic bed leveling, and temperature controls for approximately $400. These bioprinters were then used for in vitro and ex vivo bioprinting to demonstrate their utility for tissue engineering.