Alginate hydrogel beads are a common platform for generating 3D cell cultures in biomedical research. Simple methods for bead generation using a manual pipettor or syringe are low-throughput and produce beads showing high variability in size and shape. To address these challenges, we designed a 3D printed bead generator that uses an airflow to cleave beads from a stream of hydrogel solution. The performance of the proposed alginate bead generator was evaluated by changing the volume flow rates of alginate (QAlg) and air (QA), the diameter of device nozzle (d) and the concentration of alginate gel solution (C). We identified that the diameter of beads (D = 0.9 -2.8mm) can be precisely controlled by changing QA and d. Also the bead generation frequency (f) can be tuned by changing QAlg. Finally, we demonstrated that viability and biological function (pericellular matrix deposition) of chondrocytes were not adversely affected by high f using this bead generator. Because 3D printing is becoming a more accessible technique, our unique design will allow greater access to average biomedical research laboratories, STEM education and industries in cost- and time-effective manner.

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