Rapid prototyping of scaffolds derived from thermoreversible hydrogels and tailored for applications in tissue engineering

In the year 2000 a new rapid prototyping (RP) technology was developed at the Freiburg Materials Research Center to meet the demands for desktop fabrication of scaffolds useful in tissue engineering. A key feature of this RP technology is the three-dimensional (3D) dispensing of liquids and pastes in liquid media. In contrast to conventional RP systems, mainly focused on melt processing, the 3D dispensing RP process (3D plotting) can apply a much larger variety of synthetic as well as natural materials, including aqueous solutions and pastes, to fabricate scaffolds for application in tissue engineering. For the first time, hydrogel scaffolds with a designed external shape and a well-defined internal pore structure were prepared by this RP process. Surface coating and pore formation were achieved to facilitate cell adhesion and cell growth. The versatile application potential of new hydrogel scaffolds was demonstrated in cell culture.