Determination of geometrical and viscoelastic properties of PLA/PHB samples made by additive manufacturing for urethral substitution

Additive manufacturing has a great potential for creating hard tissue substitutes, such as bone and cartilage, or soft tissues, such as vascular and skin grafts. This study is a pilot study for 3D printing of a new material mixture potentially used as a tubular substitute for urethra replacement. This new mixture is a blend of polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB).

The basic aspect that affects the 3D printing process is correct material preparation and setting of 3D printer parameters.

Selection of material and printing parameters depend on printing technology. The printing technology affects material behavior during printing process. The goal of preprocessing and 3D printing process is to provide stabile conditions during manufacturing to obtain usable printed samples.

The study deals with preparation of material before 3D printing – material drying. Moisture in material affects material degradation and viscosity during printing. According to this, it is necessary to verify recommended drying parameters. Verification was performed by printing strand samples from dried and non-dried material and also by calculating and comparing respective viscosities that change in time. Printed strand clearly show that non-dried material degrades in less than 10 min, what leads to inappropriate application in short-time printing. Dried material shows significant stability and degrades slightly during selected time span. For metrological verification of material stability two sample types were designed and manufactured – a cubic sample which represents basic scaffold structures and a tubular one that serves as urethra substitution. Obtained results showed appropriate usability of selected technology and printing parameters for PLA / PHB material blend.