Research Papers

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

[+] Author and Article Information
Colton McElheny

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Louisiana State University,
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Daniel Hayes

Department of Biomedical Engineering,
Pennsylvania State University,
University Park,
State College, PA 16802

Ram Devireddy

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Louisiana State University,
2508 P.F. Taylor Hall,
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
e-mail: devireddy@me.lsu.edu

1Corresponding author.

Manuscript received May 26, 2016; final manuscript received June 24, 2017; published online August 7, 2017. Assoc. Editor: Xiaoming He.

J. Med. Devices 11(4), 041001 (Aug 07, 2017) (9 pages) Paper No: MED-16-1231; doi: 10.1115/1.4037259 History: Received May 26, 2016; Revised June 24, 2017

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 μL. 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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Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 1

Representative photographs of the final assembled device within the Bio-Safety Cabinet

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 2

Base assembly: The base assembly of the device, which includes a driving stepper motor with idler pulleys opposite it for X-axis control via timing belt, offers a work envelope of 7.5 in (190.5 mm) in the X-axis and 8.75 in (222.25 mm) in the Y-axis

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 3

P6 shuttle: The shuttle assembly, driven along the Y-axis via timing belt, includes a noncaptive stepper motor with a native step distance of 10 μm used as a microextrusion pump. A laser attachment, in current configuration, allows for light-induced activation of printing material pre-extrusion.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 4

V2 rocket assembly: For ease of viewing, the assembly depicts half of the gantry structure that actuates the shuttle along the 120 mm Z-axis working envelope via threaded rod coupled with a stepper motor. Two linear bearings and shaft-quality precision ground rods ensure vertical motion fidelity.

Grahic Jump Location
Fig. 5

Representative photographs of 3D-printed samples



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