Additive Manufactured Scaffolds for Bone Tissue Engineering: Physical Characterization of Thermoplastic Composites with Functional Fillers

R. Sinha, A. Sanchez, M. Camara-Torres, I.C. Uriszar-Aldaca, A.R. Calore, J. Harings, A. Gambardella, L. Ciccarelli, V. Vanzanella, M. Sisani, M. Scatto, R. Wendelbo, S. Perez, S. Villanueva, A. Matanza, A. Patelli, N. Grizzuti, C. Mota, L. Moroni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Thermoplastic polymer-filler composites are excellent materials for bone tissue engineering (TE) scaffolds, combining the functionality of fillers with suitable load-bearing ability, biodegradability, and additive manufacturing (AM) compatibility of the polymer. Two key determinants of their utility are their rheological behavior in the molten state, determining AM processability and their mechanical load-bearing properties. We report here the characterization of both these physical properties for four bone TE relevant composite formulations with poly(ethylene oxide terephthalate)/poly(butylene terephthalate (PEOT/PBT) as a base polymer, which is often used to fabricate TE scaffolds. The fillers used were reduced graphene oxide (rGO), hydroxyapatite (HA), gentamicin intercalated in zirconium phosphate (ZrP-GTM) and ciprofloxacin intercalated in MgAl layered double hydroxide (MgAl-CFX). The rheological assessment showed that generally the viscous behavior dominated the elastic behavior (G" > G') for the studied composites, at empirically determined extrusion temperatures. Coupled rheological-thermal characterization of ZrP-GTM and HA composites showed that the fillers increased the solidification temperatures of the polymer melts during cooling. Both these findings have implications for the required extrusion temperatures and bonding between layers. Mechanical tests showed that the fillers generally not only made the polymer stiffer but more brittle in proportion to the filler fractions. Furthermore, the elastic moduli of scaffolds did not directly correlate with the corresponding bulk material properties, implying composite-specific AM processing effects on the mechanical properties. Finally, we show computational models to predict multimaterial scaffold elastic moduli using measured single material scaffold and bulk moduli. The reported characterizations are essential for assessing the AM processability and ultimately the suitability of the manufactured scaffolds for the envisioned bone regeneration application.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3788-3799
Number of pages12
JournalACS Applied Polymer Materials
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2021


  • composites
  • fillers
  • rheology
  • mechanical properties
  • modeling
  • additive manufacturing


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