This study reports the utilisation of an optically switched dielectrophoretic (ODEP) force for the manipulation and assembly of cell-encapsulating alginate microbeads in a microfluidic perfusion cell culture system for bottom-up tissue engineering. One of the key features of this system is the ODEP force-based mechanism, which allows a commercial projector to be coupled with a computer to manipulate and assemble cell-encapsulating microbeads in an efficient, manageable, and user-friendly manner. Another distinctive feature is the design of the microfluidic cell culture chip, which allows the patterned cell-encapsulating microbeads to be cultivated on site under culture medium perfusion conditions. For demonstrating its application in bottom-up cartilage tissue engineering, chondrocyte-encapsulating alginate microbeads varying in encapsulated cell densities were generated. The manipulation forces associated with operating the alginate microbeads were experimentally evaluated. The results revealed that the measured manipulation forces increased with increases in both the applied electric voltage and the number of cells in the alginate microbeads. Nevertheless, the observed manipulation force was found to be independent of the size of the cell-free alginate microbeads. It can be speculated that the friction force may influence the estimation of the ODEP force within the experimental conditions investigated. In this study, chondrocyte-encapsulating alginate microbeads with three different cell densities were manipulated and assembled in the proposed microfluidic system to form a compact sheet-like cell culture construct that imitates the cell distribution in the cross-section of native articular cartilage. Moreover, the demonstration case also showed that the cell viability of the cultured cells in the microfluidic system remained as high as 96 ± 2%. In this study, four sheet-like cell culture constructs were stacked to create a larger assembled cell culture construct. The cell distribution inside the cell culture construct was further confirmed by a confocal microscopy observation, which showed that the distribution was similar to that in native articular cartilage. As a whole, the proposed system holds great promise as a platform for engineering tissue constructs with easily tunable inner cell distributions.