Customizable Micro 3D Printed Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering

Monsur Islam, a post-doctoral researcher at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany, wanted to 3D print carbon structures to create customizable tissue engineering scaffolds. The main focus of this project is 3D printing glassy carbon material, which is typically achieved by 3D printing of a precursor followed by carbonization.  To successfully print these scaffolds, Islam needed a high-resolution 3D printer with the necessary length scale and the appropriate precursor materials for carbonization.

Finding the Right 3D Printer

Dr. Islam was using two photon polymerization (2PP) and benchtop stereolithography systems to attempt to print the precursor structures for his scaffolds. However, these systems were limited on the resolution that could be achieved length scale, and the availability of appropriate precursor materials for 3D printing. Tissue engineering applications require intricate details that can only be printed on an ultra-high-resolution printer.

As a 2µm resolution system, BMF’s microArch® S130 is able to print structures with more complex internal structures with tight tolerances at a very high resolution. Using BMF’s HTL – Yellow resin in the the microArch S130, 3D printed precursors carbonized seamlessly without creating any artifacts arising from the precursor. Furthermore, the BMF 3D printer proved to provide sufficient resolution and length-scale suitable for 3D cell colonization.

3D printed carbon microlattice architecture at 150x magnification
3D printed carbon microlattice architecture at 500x magnification

Using the microArch S130, Dr. Islam was able to 3D print a 1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 mm cube with 100 x 100 µm tunnels passing through in 100 µm pitch, in 5µm layers. The picture showed above shows a carbonized sample with a design lattice thickness of 100 µm and gap between adjacent lattice of 100 µm. Once carbonized, the scaffolds are tested for cell culturing and tissue engineering.

The Future

Having shown that carbonizing 3D printed structures works for tissue engineering, KIT can continue to expand on the structural designs used for these scaffolds.

Carbon is an interesting material with unique properties which enables its use in several applications ranging from energy materials to tissue engineering scaffolds. However, the fabrication of 3D complex architectures of carbon is still challenging. Additive manufacturing enables the fabrication of complex 3D structures of a variety of polymeric materials. Carbonization of 3D printed polymeric material can lead to carbon 3D architectures. Using this strategy, we aim to fabricate 3D carbon architectures using BMF’s micro-precision 3D printing systems. Design-guided fabrication of micro architected carbon structures will be investigated for superior structural and material properties that can expand the design and material toolbox of micro achitectured materials.

– Monsur Islam, KIT

For more information about the microArch S130 and available photopolymers contact BMF.