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3D inkjet printing of biomaterials with strength reliability and cytocompatibility: Quantitative process strategy for Ti-6Al-4V

Barui, Srimanta, Panda, Asish K., Naskar, S., Kuppuraj, R., Basu, Saptarshi, Basu, Bikramjit
Biomaterials 2019 v.213 pp. 119212
Weibull statistics, biocompatibility, biocompatible materials, bones, cytoskeleton, droplets, fibroblasts, manufacturing, mechanical properties, melting, mice, models, modulus of elasticity, polymerization, spectroscopy, surface roughness, viability, wettability
Among additive manufacturing (AM) techniques, laser or electron beam based processes have been widely investigated for metallic implants. Despite the potential in manufacturing of patient-specific biomedical implants, 3D inkjet powder printing (3DIJPP, a variant of AM) of biomaterials is still in its infancy, as little is known quantitatively about the transient process physics and dynamics. An equally important challenge has been the ink formulation to manufacture biomaterials with reliable mechanical properties and desired biocompatibility. We have developed, for the very first time, the theoretical foundation and experimental formulation of a unique process strategy involving the ‘on-demand’ delivery of a novel in situ polymerisable acrylic ink system to print a model biomaterial, Ti-6Al-4V. The post-ejection in-flight dynamics of ink droplets have been captured in situ by employing high speed stroboscopic shadowgraphy, to quantitatively estimate the dimensionless numbers of fluid physics for ‘printability’ assessment. Washburn model was adapted extensively to quantify the capillary ink infiltration time in porous powder bed of finite thickness. On the other hand, particle tracking mode in diffusing wave spectroscopy (DWS) was exploited to analyse the timescale for effective binding of powder particles during in situ polymerisation. The clinically relevant combination of 3D porous architecture with 98.4% interconnectivity among 10–40 μm pores together with modest combination of elastic modulus (4 GPa) and strength reliability (Weibull modulus ∼8.1) establish the potential of inkjet printed Ti-6Al-4V as cortical bone analogue. A better cell attachment, viability, cytoskeletal spreading with pronounced proliferation of murine fibroblasts and pre-osteoblasts on 3DIJPP Ti-6Al-4V, when benchmarked against the metallurgically processed (commercial) or selective laser melted (SLM) Ti-6Al-4V, has been demonstrated, in vitro. The enhanced cellular activities on the 3DIJPP Ti-6Al-4V was explained in terms of an interplay among the elastic stiffness, surface roughness and wettability against the same benchmarking. It is conceived that the quantitative understanding of the integrated process physics and dynamics to print Ti-6Al-4V with reliable mechanical properties together with better cytocompatibility can lead to a paradigm shift in adapting the scalable 3DIJPP for manufacturing of metallic biomaterials.