Low cost 3D bioprinter

Andrew Shi
Connor Smith
Victor O'Brien


3D bioprinting involves building a layer-by-layer design of an object using biomaterials or even living cells. However, these bioprinters are expensive, the cheapest on the market costs $24,500 and the top of the line are upwards of $100,000. For our senior design project, we repurposed a low cost, open source 3D printer called the RepRap into a low cost 3D bioprinter. This bioprinter can be used in schools as an educational tool. It can help promote the STEM fields to students and introduce them to concepts of engineering, biology, and chemistry. We replaced the normal plastic extruder head with a syringe pump. This syringe pump is attached to the printer and is able to print our bioink. We changed the software to account for the change from plastic to liquid extrusion of our bioink. The bioink consisted of chitosan and proteins. Chitosan is a thermosetting hydrogel that can print as a liquid at room temperature and gel when raised to a temperature of 40oC. We performed characterization testing to find the optimal motor speed and flow rate to create a continuous flow of the bioink. The result was a functional low cost 3D bioprinter that can print multiple layers of proteins encapsulated in chitosan.