Open-source 3D printers mean objects can be quickly and efficiently produced. However, design and fabrication parameters need to be optimized to set up the correct printing procedure; a procedure in which the characteristics of the printing materials selected for use can also influence the process. This work focuses on optimizing the printing process of the open-source 3D extruder machine RepRap, which is used to manufacture poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) scaffolds for cell culture applications. PCL is a biocompatible polymer that is free of toxic dye and has been used to fabricate scaffolds, i.e., solid structures suitable for 3D cancer cell cultures. Scaffold cell culture has been described as enhancing cancer stem cell (CSC) populations related to tumor chemoresistance and/or their recurrence after chemotherapy. A RepRap BCN3D+ printer and 3 mm PCL wire were used to fabricate circular scaffolds. Design and fabrication parameters were first determined with SolidWorks and Slic3r software and subsequently optimized following a novel sequential flowchart. In the flowchart described here, the parameters were gradually optimized step by step, by taking several measurable variables of the resulting scaffolds into consideration to guarantee high-quality printing. Three deposition angles (45°, 60° and 90°) were fabricated and tested. MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells and NIH/3T3 murine fibroblasts were used to assess scaffold adequacy for 3D cell cultures. The 60° scaffolds were found to be suitable for the purpose. Therefore, PCL scaffolds fabricated via the flowchart optimization with a RepRap 3D printer could be used for 3D cell cultures and may boost CSCs to study new therapeutic treatments for this malignant population. Moreover, the flowchart defined here could represent a standard procedure for non-engineers (i.e., mainly physicians) when manufacturing new culture systems is required.
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