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Degradable copolymers in additive manufacturing: controlled fabrication of pliable scaffolds

Time: Fri 2021-03-26 10.00

Location:, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Fibre and Polymer Science

Doctoral student: Astrid Ahlinder , Polymerteknologi, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Opponent: Professor Minna Kellomäki,

Supervisor: Professor Anna Finne Wistrand, Polymerteknologi, Fiber- och polymerteknologi, Polymerteknologi; T. Christian Gasser, Hållfasthetslära; PhD Tiziana Fuoco, Polymerteknologi


In tissue engineering, the production of well-defined scaffolds with a porous architecture from degradable polymers is of great interest. Detailed designs have become feasible through the development of additive manufacturing. A small nozzle size is needed to obtain detailed scaffold structures, and careful control of the rheological properties is therefore required during production. A lower viscosity of the melt allows for easier printability, but a high molar mass is required to produce scaffolds that can retain mechanical properties over the time needed for tissue regeneration. An additional challenge of using degradable polymers with high molar mass in any melt-based processing is that thermal degradation can reduce the molar mass during the production stage. To utilise medical grade degradable polymers whilst limiting the thermal degradation a rheological analysis of the most commonly used commercial medical-grade degradable synthetic polymers was performed. Their rheological behaviours aided in setting process parameters for two different melt-based additive manufacturing routes. The variation in thermal degradation in the two routes was assessed, and the parameters were adjusted to minimise it.

A nondegradative additive manufacturing method was designed, and knowledge regarding printability was developed based on rheological analysis and polymer characterisation methods. This knowledge was applied to the copolymer poly(e-caprolactone-co-p-dioxanone) developed within the group to fabricate pliable scaffolds for tissue engineering with an increased rate of hydrolysis in comparison to poly(e-caprolactone). In addition to the selection of the polymer and process parameters, the mechanical properties were also controlled through the structural design. Poly(e-caprolactone) was used as a model material to show how the mechanical properties of scaffolds could be controlled based on the design solely. The results showed that the stiffness could be reduced by more than a factor of 10 through tuning of the design, resulting in soft pliable scaffold structures.