A low-cost 3D bioprinter was built by modifying a standard desktop 3D printer with a syringe-based, large volume extruder (LVE). The extruder works with most open-source fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers.

The PrintrBot Simple Metal modified with the LVE for FRESH printing. (Adam Feinberg)

Most commercial 3D bioprinters currently on the market range in cost from $10,000 to more than $200,000 and are typically proprietary machines, closed source, and difficult to modify. The LVE cuts down on cost and allows users to print artificial human tissue on a larger scale and at higher resolution, opening doors for researchers and professionals to experiment with 3D-printing biomaterials and fluids.

When systems dispense smaller amounts of material, there is more control and small items can be printed with high resolution. As systems get bigger, various challenges arise. The LVE 3D bioprinter allows users to print much larger tissue scaffolds, at the scale of an entire human heart, with high quality.

The system was demonstrated using alginate, a common biomaterial for 3D printing, and the Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technique.

For more information, contact Emily Durham at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 412-268-2406.


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This article first appeared in the January, 2019 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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