We are the 3D Bioprinter Team, made up of six senior biomedical engineering students. The goal of our senior project is to create a 3D printer that is capable of printing live cells. This would be used as an educational tool to help people learn more about bioprinting and tissue engineering through demonstrations.
The aim is to deliver a product that is capable of taking a CAD design, slicing this design into g-code, and having the printer transform this into a design that contains live, healthy cells from a bioink. The bioink will strike a balance between structural integrity and cell health.
As identified by our customer, we hope to make any given print job as hands-off as possible. By treating the printer like a typical plastic 3D printer, we have access to existing technology for the printer gantry system, power supply, motors and control board. Our team has designed an automatic syringe pump and UV LED system to extrude and crosslink the material. In order to mitigate the risk posed by some of these factors, we will also install safeguards to keep spectators and operators safe.
We chose a bioink that allows for a healthy incorporation of cells and is solidified when exposed to UV light. This ink will form a homogenous mixture of both cells and gelatin. Cell viability will be closely monitored to ensure that the printing process does not damage them. This will confirm that the final product is biocompatible and fit for demonstrational use.
There are three major challenges that we are facing in this project. First is using UV light to crosslink the bioink. Photo-crosslinking is challenging to implement and poses safety hazards which need to be adequately addressed. Second is the incorporation of living cells into the system. We must ensure that the cells can survive the extrusion process and UV light exposure. Third is creating a fully automated system, which requires precise interactions between the hardware and software of the system. Overcoming these three challenges will be difficult but will result in a successful project!