Development of hybrid 3D-printed structure with aligned drug-loaded fibres using in-situ custom designed templates
Fibre alignment technology is crucial in various emerging applications, such as drug delivery systems, tissue engineering, and scaffold fabrication. However, conventional methods have limitations when it comes to incorporating aligned fibres into 3D printed structures in situ. This research demonstrates the use of custom-designed templates made with conductive ink to control the alignment of drug-loaded polymer fibres on a 3D printed microscale structure. Three different geometries were designed, and the effects of the template on fibre diameter and pattern were investigated. The hybrid structure demonstrated successful control of aligned fibres on printed structures using grounded conductive ink geometric electrodes, as confirmed by SEM. All three custom-designed templates presented unique geometric alignments and fibre diameters of around 1 μm. Additionally, the different collector shapes had an impact on the distribution of fibre diameters. FTIR and EDX analyses concluded that the drug was effectively encapsulated throughout the fibres. In-situ deposition of fibres onto the 3D printed structure enhanced the mechanical properties, and water contact angle results showed that the hybrid structure transitioned to a hydrophilic state with the addition of fibres. A drug delivery study confirmed that the hybrid structure functions as a steady release system, following a Korsmeyer-Peppas kinetic release model. TGA results indicated that the samples are thermally stable, and DSC analysis concluded that the samples were homogeneously produced. The results obtained from the hybrid structures provide a novel mechanism for integrating aligned fibres and 3D printed structures for development in fields such as biomedical engineering, regenerative medicine, and advanced manufacturing.