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Title: Long-Fiber Embedded Hydrogel 3D Printing for Structural Reinforcement
Hydrogels are candidate building blocks in a wide range of biomaterial applications including soft and biohybrid robotics, microfluidics, and tissue engineering. Recent advances in embedded 3D printing have broadened the design space accessible with hydrogel additive manufacturing. Specifically, the Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels (FRESH) technique has enabled the fabrication of complex 3D structures using extremely soft hydrogels, e.g., alginate and collagen, by assembling hydrogels within a fugitive support bath. However, the low structural rigidity of FRESH printed hydrogels limits their applications, especially those that require operation in nonaqueous environments. In this study, we demonstrated long-fiber embedded hydrogel 3D printing using a multihead printing platform consisting of a custom-built fiber extruder and an open-source FRESH bioprinter with high embedding fidelity. Using this process, fibers were embedded in 3D printed hydrogel components to achieve significant structural reinforcement (e.g., tensile modulus improved from 56.78 ± 8.76 to 382.55 ± 25.29 kPa and tensile strength improved from 9.44 ± 2.28 to 45.05 ± 5.53 kPa). In addition, we demonstrated the versatility of this technique by using fibers of a wide range of sizes and material types and implementing different 2D and 3D embedding patterns, such as embedding a conical helix using electrochemically aligned collagen fiber via nonplanar printing. Moreover, the technique was implemented using low-cost material and is compatible with open-source software and hardware, which facilitates its adoption and modification for new research applications.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2044785 2015317
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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