Three-Dimensional Extrusion Printing of Porous Scaffolds Using Storable Ceramic Inks

Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods 2020 Volume 26, Issue 6, Pages 292-305

In this study, we describe the additive manufacturing of porous three-dimensionally (3D) printed ceramic scaffolds prepared with hydroxyapatite (HA), β-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP), or the combination of both with an extrusion-based process. The scaffolds were printed using a novel ceramic-based ink with reproducible printability and storability properties. After sintering at 1200°C, the scaffolds were characterized in terms of structure, mechanical properties, and dissolution in aqueous medium. Microcomputed tomography and scanning electron microscopy analyses revealed that the structure of the scaffolds, and more specifically, pore size, porosity, and isotropic dimensions were not significantly affected by the sintering process, resulting in scaffolds that closely replicate the original dimensions of the 3D model design. The mechanical properties of the sintered scaffolds were in the range of human trabecular bone for all compositions. All ceramic bioinks showed consistent printability over a span of 14 days, demonstrating the short-term storability of the formulations. Finally, the mass loss did not vary among the evaluated compositions over a period of 28 days except in the case of β-TCP scaffolds, in which the structural integrity was significantly affected after 28 days of incubation in phosphate-buffered saline. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the development of storable ceramic inks for the 3D printing of scaffolds of HA, β-TCP, and mixtures thereof with high fidelity and low shrinkage following sintering that could potentially be used for bone tissue engineering in load-bearing applications.