Fused Filament Fabrication (Three-Dimensional Printing) of Amorphous Magnesium Phosphate/Polylactic Acid Macroporous Biocomposite Scaffolds

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ACS Applied Bio Materials


The ultimate goal of this paper is to develop novel ceramic-polymer-based biocomposite orthopedic scaffolds with the help of additive manufacturing. Specifically, we incorporate a bioceramic known as amorphous magnesium phosphate (AMP) into polylactic acid (PLA) with the help of the melt-blending technique. Magnesium phosphate (MgP) was chosen as the bioactive component as previous studies have confirmed its favorable biomaterial properties, especially in orthopedics. Special care was taken to develop constant diameter AMP-PLA composite filaments, which would serve as feedstock for a fused filament fabrication (FFF)-based three-dimensional (3D) printer. Before the filaments were used for FFF, a thorough set of characterization protocols comprising of phase analysis, microstructure evaluations, thermal analysis, rheological analysis, and in vitro degradation determinations was performed on the biocomposites. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) results confirmed a homogenous dispersion of AMP particles in the PLA matrix. Rheological studies demonstrated good printability behavior of the AMP-PLA filaments. In vitro degradation studies indicated a faster degradation rate in the case of AMP-PLA filaments as compared to the single phase PLA filaments. Subsequently, the filaments were fed into an FFF setup, and tensile bars and design-specific macroporous AMP-PLA scaffolds were printed. The biocomposite exhibited favorable mechanical properties. Furthermore, in vitro cytocompatibility results revealed higher pre-osteoblast cell attachment and proliferation on AMP-PLA scaffolds as compared to single-phase PLA scaffolds. Altogether, this study provides a proof of concept that design-specific bioactive AMP-PLA biocomposite scaffolds fabricated by FFF can be potential candidates as medical implants in orthopedics.