Influence of Polymeric Microparticle Size and Loading Concentration on 3D Printing Accuracy and Degradation Behavior of Composite Scaffolds

3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 2024 Volume 11, Number 2, Pages e813–e827

Successful employment of 3D printing for delivery of therapeutic biomolecules requires protection of their bioactivity on exposure to potentially inactivating conditions. Although intermediary encapsulation of the biomolecules in polymeric particulate delivery vehicles is a promising strategy for this objective, the inclusion of such particles in 3D printing formulations may critically impact the accuracy or precision of 3D printed scaffolds relative to their intended designed architectures, as well as the degradation behavior of both the scaffolds and the included particles. The present work aimed to elucidate the effect of poly(d,l-lactic-co-glycolic acid) particle size and loading concentration on material accuracy, machine precision, and degradation of 3D printed poly(ɛ-caprolactone)-based scaffolds. Using a main effects analysis, the sizes and loading concentrations of particle delivery vehicles investigated were found to have neither a beneficial nor disadvantageous influence on the metrics of printing quality such as material accuracy and machine precision. Meanwhile, particle loading concentration was determined to influence degradation rate, whereas printing temperature affected the trends in composite weight-average molecular weight. Neither of the two particle-related parameters (concentration nor diameter) was found to exhibit a significant effect on intra-fiber nor inter-fiber porosity. These findings evidence the capacity for controlled loading of particulate delivery vehicles in 3D printed scaffolds while preserving construct accuracy and precision, and with predictable dictation of composite degradation behavior for potential controlled release of encapsulated biomolecules.