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Enabling Free-Standing 3D Hydrogel Microstructures with Microreactive Inkjet Printing

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posted on 23.12.2019, 20:39 by Mei Ying Teo, Seyoung Kee, Narrendar RaviChandran, Logan Stuart, Kean C. Aw, Jonathan Stringer
Reactive inkjet printing holds great prospect as a multimaterial fabrication process because of its unique advantages involving customization, miniaturization, and precise control of droplets for patterning. For inkjet printing of hydrogel structures, a hydrogel precursor (or cross-linker) is printed onto a cross-linker (or precursor) bath or a substrate. However, the progress of patterning and design of intricate hydrogel structures using the inkjet printing technique is limited by the erratic interplay between gelation and motion control. Accordingly, microreactive inkjet printing (MRIJP) was applied to demonstrate a spontaneous 3D printing of hydrogel microstructures by using alginate as the model system. In addition, a printable window within the capillary number–Weber number for the MRIJP technique demonstrated the importance of velocity to realization of in-air binary droplet collision. Finally, systematic analysis shows that the structure and diffusion coefficient of hydrogels are important factors that affect the shape of printed hydrogels over time. Based on such a fundamental understanding of MRIJP of hydrogels, the fabrication process and the structure of hydrogels can be controlled and adapt for 2D/3D microstructure printing of any low-viscosity (<40 cP) reactive inks, with a representative tissue-mimicking structure of a ∼200 μm diameter hollow tube presented in this work.