Computational and experimental characterization of 3D-printed PCL structures toward the design of soft biological tissue scaffolds
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionMaterials & design. 2020, 188, 108488 10.1016/j.matdes.2020.108488
Degradable porous polymeric structures are attractive candidates for biological tissue scaffolds, and adequate mechanical, transport, chemical and biological properties determine their functionality. Aside from the properties of polymer-based materials, the scaffold's meso-structure controls its elasticity at the organ length-scale. This study investigated the effect of the meso-structure on scaffolds' mechanical and transport properties using finite element analysis (FEA) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). A number of poly (ε-caprolactone) (PCL) - based scaffolds were 3D printed, analyzed by microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) and mechanically tested. We found that the gradient (G) and gradient and staggered (GS) meso-structure designs led to a higher scaffold permeability, a more homogeneous flow inside the scaffold, and a lower wall shear stress (WSS) in comparison with the basic (B) meso-structure design. The GS design resulted in scaffold stiffness as low as 1.07/0.97 MPa under compression/tension, figures that are comparative with several soft tissues. Image processing of micro-CT data demonstrated that the imposed meso-structures could have been adequately realized through 3D printing, and experimental testing validated FEA analysis. Our results suggest that the properties of 3D-printed PCL-based scaffolds can be tuned via meso-structures toward soft tissue engineering applications. The biological function of designed scaffolds should be further explored in-situ studies.