Pneumatic micro-extrusion (PME) is a high-resolution direct-write additive manufacturing process, which has emerged as the process of choice for tissue engineering and biofabrication of a broad spectrum of organs and tissues (e.g., bone, aortic valve, blood vessels, human ear, and nose). Despite the advantages and host of biomedical applications engendered by the PME process — including, for example, (i) accommodation of a wide range of material viscosity (enabled via thermopneumatic material deposition), (ii) large build volume and standoff distance for tissue engineering, (iii) in situ UV curing, and (iv) high-resolution multimaterial deposition — there are intrinsically complex design, material, and process factors as well as interactions, which influence the functional properties of PME-fabricated tissues and organs. Consequently, investigation of the impact and interaction of each factor aligned with establishment of a physics-based, optimal material deposition regime is inevitably a burgeoning need.
In this study, using the Taguchi design, the influence of four significant factors, i.e., layer height, infill density, infill pattern, and print speed, is investigated on the compression properties as well as the dimensional accuracy of polycaprolactone (PCL) bone scaffolds, fabricated using the PME process. Furthermore, a 3D, transient two-phase flow CFD model is forwarded with the aim to observe the flow of material within the deposition head as well as the micro-capillary (nozzle). The results of this study pave the way for further investigation of the bio-functional properties of bone scaffolds, e.g., biodegradation, cell proliferation and growth rate.