Fabrication of soft tissue engineering scaffolds by means of rapid prototyping techniques

Scaffolds are of great importance for tissue engineering because they enable the production of functional living implants out of cells obtained from cell culture. These scaffolds require individual external shape and well defined internal structure with interconnected porosity. The problem of the fabrication of prototypes from computer assisted design (CAD) data is well known in automotive industry. Rapid prototyping (RP) techniques are able to produce such parts. Some RP techniques exist for hard tissue implants. Soft tissue scaffolds need a hydrogel material. No biofunctional and cell compatible processing for hydrogels exists in the area of RP. Therefore, a new rapid prototyping (RP) technology was developed at the Freiburg Materials Research Center to meet the demands for desktop fabrication of hydrogels. A key feature of this RP technology is the three-dimensional dispensing of liquids and pastes in liquid media. The porosity of the scaffold is calculated and an example of the data conversion from a volume model to the plotting path control is demonstrated. The versatile applications of the new hydrogel scaffolds are discussed, including especially its potential for tissue engineering.