Influence of crosslinking on the mechanical behavior of 3D printed alginate scaffolds: Experimental and numerical approaches

Tissue scaffolds fabricated by three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting are attracting considerable attention for tissue engineering applications. Because the mechanical properties of hydrogel scaffolds should match the damaged tissue, changing various parameters during 3D bioprinting has been studied to manipulate the mechanical behavior of the resulting scaffolds. Crosslinking scaffolds using a cation solution (such as CaCl2) is also important for regulating the mechanical properties, but has not been well documented in the literature. Here, the effect of varied crosslinking agent volume and crosslinking time on the mechanical behavior of 3D bioplotted alginate scaffolds was evaluated using both experimental and numerical methods. Compression tests were used to measure the elastic modulus of each scaffold, then a finite element model was developed and a power model used to predict scaffold mechanical behavior. Results showed that crosslinking time and volume of crosslinker both play a decisive role in modulating the mechanical properties of 3D bioplotted scaffolds. Because mechanical properties of scaffolds can affect cell response, the findings of this study can be implemented to modulate the elastic modulus of scaffolds according to the intended application.