3D polycaprolactone scaffolds with controlled pore structure using a rapid prototyping system

Designing a three-dimensional (3-D) ideal scaffold has been one of the main goals in biomaterials and tissue engineering, and various mechanical techniques have been applied to fabricate biomedical scaffolds used for soft and hard tissue regeneration. Scaffolds should be biodegradable and biocompatible, provide temporary support for cell growth to allow cell adhesion, and consist of a defined structure that can be formed into customized shapes by a computer-aided design system. This versatility in preparing scaffolds gives us the opportunity to use rapid prototyping devices to fabricate polymeric scaffolds. In this study, we fabricated polycaprolactone scaffolds with interconnecting pores using a 3-D melt plotting system and compared the plotted scaffolds to those made by salt leaching. Scanning electron microscopy, a laser scanning microscope, micro-computed tomography, and dynamic mechanical analysis were used to characterize the geometry and mechanical properties of the resulting scaffolds and morphology of attached cells. The plotted scaffolds had the obvious advantage that their mechanical properties could be easily manipulated by adjusting the scaffold geometry. In addition, the plotted scaffolds provided more opportunity for cells to expand between the strands of the scaffold compared to the salt-leached scaffold.