Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 25, 2016

Evaluation of cell inkjet printing technique for biofabrication

  • Rainer Detsch EMAIL logo , Sebastian Blob , Tobias Zehnder and Aldo R. Boccaccini
From the journal BioNanoMaterials


The main goal in biofabrication approach is to build living tissue substitutes on demand. In order to create functional tissue structures, additive manufacturing (AM) technologies are being increasingly considered. They allow generating functional structures created out of CAD models within a short period of time and with a very high precision. Different techniques are already established to build three-dimensional (3D) complex cell-loaded structures. One of these robotic additive fabrication techniques is the ink jet technology which is highly promising for biofabrication. This technique allows to process very small amounts of liquids or low-viscous polymer solutions e.g. to set biomolecules and cells in a suitable structure. The aim of this study is to evaluate a piezo inkjet printing device which is integrated in a commercial modular instrument platform together with a bioplotting system for biofabrication. The inkjet device is able to print single ink droplets of different volumes by controlling the applied voltage and the number of drops released to the spot. In this work different selective sets of parameters influencing the droplet formation and the spot size have been investigated. It has been proven that inkjet printing process in combination with fibrin hydrogel and bone marrow stromal cells is cytocompatible. In summary, the applied piezo inkjet printing is shown to be completely programmable, accurate and the resolution of the device allowed printing of various patterns with biomaterials and vital cells.


This work was supported by the Emerging Fields Initiative (EFI) of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (project TOPbiomat and Synthetic Biology). The HCT cells where delivered by the Institute of Pathology (Experimental Tumor Pathology led by Prof. Dr. R. Schneider-Stock) at the University Hospital Erlangen.

  1. Author’s statement

  2. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  3. Materials and methods

  4. Informed consent: Informed consent has been obtained from all individuals included in this study.

  5. Ethical approval: The research related to human use has been complied with all the relevant national regulations, institutional policies and in accordance the tenets of the Helsinki Declaration, and has been approved by the authors’ institutional review board or equivalent committee.


1. Ozbolat IT. Bioprinting scale-up tissue and organ constructs for transplantation. Trends Biotechnol. 2015;33:395–400.10.1016/j.tibtech.2015.04.005Search in Google Scholar PubMed

2. Ferris CJ, Gilmore KG, Wallace GG, In het Panhuis M. Biofabrication: an overview of the approaches used for printing of living cells. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2013;97:4243–58.10.1007/s00253-013-4853-6Search in Google Scholar PubMed

3. Malda J, Visser J, Melchels FP, Jüngst T, Hennink WE, Dhert WJ, et al. 25th anniversary article: engineering hydrogels for biofabrication. Adv Mater. 2013;25:5011–28.10.1002/adma.201302042Search in Google Scholar PubMed

4. Zhao Y, Yao R, Ouyang L, Ding H, Zhang T, Zhang K, et al. Three-dimensional printing of Hela cells for cervical tumor model in vitro. Biofabrication. 2014;6:035001.10.1088/1758-5082/6/3/035001Search in Google Scholar PubMed

5. Pröschel M, Detsch R, Boccaccini AR, Sonnewald U. Engineering of metabolic pathways by artificial enzyme channels. Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2015;3:1–13.10.3389/fbioe.2015.00168Search in Google Scholar PubMed PubMed Central

6. Murphy SV, Atala A. 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs. Nat Biotechnol. 2014;32:773–85.10.1038/nbt.2958Search in Google Scholar PubMed

7. Derby B. Printing and prototyping of tissues and scaffolds. Science. 2012;338:921–6.10.1126/science.1226340Search in Google Scholar PubMed

8. Nakamura M, Kobayashi A, Takagi F, Watanabe A, Hiruma Y, Ohuchi K, et al. Biocompatible inkjet printing technique for designed seeding of individual living cells. Tissue Eng. 2005;11:1658–66.10.1089/ten.2005.11.1658Search in Google Scholar PubMed

9. Boland T, Xu T, Damon B, Cui X. Application of inkjet printing to tissue engineering. Biotechnol J. 2006;1:910–7.10.1002/biot.200600081Search in Google Scholar PubMed

10. Ilkhanizadeh S, Teixeira AI, Hermanson O. Inkjet printing of macromolecules on hydrogels to steer neural stem cell differentiation. Biomaterials. 2007;28:3936–43.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2007.05.018Search in Google Scholar PubMed

11. Kim JD, Choi JS, Kim BS, Choi YC, Cho YW. Piezoelectric inkjet printing of polymers: stem cell patterning on polymer substrates. Polymer (Guildf). 2010;51:2147–54.10.1016/j.polymer.2010.03.038Search in Google Scholar

12. Saunders RE, Gough JE, Derby B. Delivery of human fibroblast cells by piezoelectric drop-on-demand inkjet printing. Biomaterials. 2008;29:193–203.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2007.09.032Search in Google Scholar PubMed

13. Roth EA, Xu T, Das M, Gregory C, Hickman JJ, Boland T. Inkjet printing for high-throughput cell patterning. Biomaterials. 2004;25:3707–15.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2003.10.052Search in Google Scholar PubMed

14. Yanez M, Maria CD, Rincon J, Boland T. Printable biodegradable hydrogel with self-crosslinking agents for wound dressings. NIP Digit Fabr. 2011;632–5.Search in Google Scholar

15. Skardal A, Atala A. Biomaterials for integration with 3-D bioprinting. Ann Biomed Eng. 2015;43:730–46.10.1007/s10439-014-1207-1Search in Google Scholar PubMed

16. Cui X, Boland T. Human microvasculature fabrication using thermal inkjet printing technology. Biomaterials. 2009;30:6221–7.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.07.056Search in Google Scholar PubMed

17. Zehnder T, Sarker B, Boccaccini AR, Detsch R. Evaluation of an alginate–gelatine crosslinked hydrogel for bioplotting. Biofabrication. 2015;7:1–12.10.1088/1758-5090/7/2/025001Search in Google Scholar PubMed

18. Detsch R, Sarker B, Grigore A, Boccaccini AR. Alginate and gelatine blending for bone cell printing and biofabrication. Biomed Eng (NY). [Internet]. Calgary,AB,Canada: ACTAPRESS; 2013. Available from: in Google Scholar

19. Detsch R, Sarker B, Zehnder T, Boccaccini AR, Douglas TE. Additive manufacturing of cell-loaded alginate enriched with alkaline phosphatase for bone tissue engineering application. BioNanoMaterials. 2014;15:79–87.10.1515/bnm-2014-0007Search in Google Scholar

20. Ivanovska J, Zehnder T, Lennert P, Sarker B, Boccaccini AR, Hartmann A, et al. Biofabrication of 3D alginate-based hydrogel for cancer research: comparison of cell spreading, viability, and adhesion characteristics of colorectal HCT116 tumor cells. Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2016;22:708–15.10.1089/ten.tec.2015.0452Search in Google Scholar

21. Gudupati H, Dey M, Ozbolat I. A comprehensive review on droplet-based bioprinting: past, present and future. Biomaterials. 2016;102:20–42.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2016.06.012Search in Google Scholar PubMed

22. Daly R, Harrington TS, Martin GD, Hutchings IM. Inkjet printing for pharmaceutics – a review of research and manufacturing. Int J Pharm. 2015;494:554–67.10.1016/j.ijpharm.2015.03.017Search in Google Scholar PubMed

23. He P, Liu Y, Qiao R. Fluid dynamics of the droplet impact processes in cell printing. Microfluid Nanofluidics. 2015;18:569–85.10.1007/s10404-014-1470-3Search in Google Scholar

24. Saunders R, Gough J, Derby B. Ink jet printing of mammalian primary cells for tissue engineering applications. MRS Proc. 2004;845:1–6.10.1557/PROC-845-AA2.8Search in Google Scholar

25. XU T, Greory C, Molnar P, Cui X, Jalota S, Bhaduri SB. Viability and electrophysiology of neural cell structures generated by the inkjet printing method. Biomaterials. 2006;19:3580–8.10.1016/j.biomaterials.2006.01.048Search in Google Scholar PubMed

26. Tirella A, Vozzi F, De Maria C, Vozzi G, Sandri T, Sassano D, et al. Substrate stiffness influences high resolution printing of living cells with an ink-jet system. J Biosci Bioeng. 2011;112:79–85.10.1016/j.jbiosc.2011.03.019Search in Google Scholar PubMed

Received: 2016-4-12
Accepted: 2016-7-29
Published Online: 2016-8-25
Published in Print: 2016-9-1

©2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 2.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button