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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2023
  2. 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 3Dmore »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Stimuli-responsive hydrogels are candidate building blocks for soft robotic applications due to many of their unique properties, including tunable mechanical properties and biocompatibility. Over the past decade, there has been significant progress in developing soft and biohybrid actuators using naturally occurring and synthetic hydrogels to address the increasing demands for machines capable of interacting with fragile biological systems. Recent advancements in three-dimensional (3D) printing technology, either as a standalone manufacturing process or integrated with traditional fabrication techniques, have enabled the development of hydrogel-based actuators with on-demand geometry and actuation modalities. This mini-review surveys existing research efforts to inspire the developmentmore »of novel fabrication techniques using hydrogel building blocks and identify potential future directions. In this article, existing 3D fabrication techniques for hydrogel actuators are first examined. Next, existing actuation mechanisms, including pneumatic, hydraulic, ionic, dehydration-rehydration, and cell-powered actuation, are reviewed with their benefits and limitations discussed. Subsequently, the applications of hydrogel-based actuators, including compliant handling of fragile items, micro-swimmers, wearable devices, and origami structures, are described. Finally, challenges in fabricating functional actuators using existing techniques are discussed.« less