Fabrication and characterization of mechanically competent 3D printed polycaprolactone-reduced graphene oxide scaffolds
The ability to produce constructs with a high control over the bulk geometry and internal architecture has situated 3D printing as an attractive fabrication technique for scaffolds. Various designs and inks are actively investigated to prepare scaffolds for different tissues. In this work, we prepared 3D printed composite scaffolds comprising polycaprolactone (PCL) and various amounts of reduced graphene oxide (rGO) at 0.5, 1, and 3 wt.%. We employed a two-step fabrication process to ensure an even mixture and distribution of the rGO sheets within the PCL matrix. The inks were prepared by creating composite PCL-rGO films through solvent evaporation casting that were subsequently fed into the 3D printer for extrusion. The resultant scaffolds were seamlessly integrated, and 3D printed with high fidelity and consistency across all groups. This, together with the homogeneous dispersion of the rGO sheets within the polymer matrix, significantly improved the compressive strength and stiffness by 185% and 150%, respectively, at 0.5 wt.% rGO inclusion. The in vitro response of the scaffolds was assessed using human adipose-derived stem cells. All scaffolds were cytocompatible and supported cell growth and viability. These mechanically reinforced and biologically compatible 3D printed PCL-rGO scaffolds are a promising platform for regenerative engineering applications.