Printing tissue-engineered scaffolds made of polycaprolactone and nano-hydroxyapatite with mechanical properties appropriate for trabecular bone substitutes

BioMedical Engineering OnLine 2023 Volume 22, Article 73


Bone tissue engineering, based on three-dimensional (3D) printing technology, has emerged as a promising approach to treat bone defects using scaffolds. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of porosity and internal structure on the mechanical properties of scaffolds.


We fabricated composite scaffolds (which aimed to replicate trabecular bone) from polycaprolactone (PCL) reinforced with 30% (wt.) nano-hydroxyapatite (nHAp) by extrusion printing. Scaffolds with various porosities were designed and fabricated with and without an interlayer offset, termed as staggered and lattice structure, respectively. Mechanical compressive testing was performed to determine scaffold elastic modulus and yield strength. Linear regression was used to evaluate mechanical properties as a function of scaffold porosity.


Different relationships between mechanical properties and porosities were noted for the staggered and lattice structures. For elastic moduli, the two relationships intersected (porosity = 55%) such that the lattice structure exhibited higher moduli with porosity values greater than the intersection point; vice versa for the staggered structure. The lattice structure exhibited higher yield strength at all porosities. Mechanical testing results also indicated elastic moduli and yield strength properties comparable to trabecular bone (elastic moduli: 14–165 MPa; yield strength: 0.9–10 MPa).


Taken together, this study demonstrates that scaffolds printed from PCL/30% (wt.) nHAp with lattice and staggered structure offer promise for treating trabecular bone defects. This study identified the effect of porosity and internal structure on scaffold mechanical properties and provided suggestions for developing scaffolds with mechanical properties for substituting trabecular bone.