AccScience Publishing / IJB / Online First / DOI: 10.36922/ijb.3189

Development of a five-axis printer for the fabrication of hybrid 3D scaffolds: From soft to hard phases and planar to curved surfaces

Michael Kainz1* Isabel Caetano da Silva1 Paula Schumann1 Julia Kastner1 Thomas Voglhuber1 Lukas Hartung2 Sandra Haas1 Milan Rathod1 Adrián Martínez Cendrero3 Tilo Dehne4 Daniel Seitz5 Gunpreet Oberoi6,7 Erik Kornfellner6 Andrés Díaz Lantada3 Francesco Moscato6,8,9 Elena Guillén1*
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1 Functional Surfaces and Nanostructures, Profactor GmbH, Steyr-Gleink, Upper Austria, Austria
2 Machine Vision, Profactor GmbH, Steyr-Gleink, Upper Austria, Austria
3 Department of Mechanical Engineering, Polytechnic University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain
4 Laboratory for Tissue Engineering, Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité - University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
5 Laboratory of Additive Manufacture and Material Science, BioMed Center Innovation gGmbH, Bayreuth, Germany
6 Center for Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
7 Austrian Center for Medical Innovation and Technology (ACMIT GmbH), Wiener Neustadt, Austria
8 Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cardiovascular Research, Vienna, Austria
9 Austrian Cluster for Tissue Regeneration, Vienna, Austria
IJB 2024, 10(3), 3189
Submitted: 17 March 2024 | Accepted: 9 April 2024 | Published: 14 June 2024
© 2024 by the Author(s).. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( )

Three-dimensional (3D) printing of hybrid scaffolds with material gradients, combining soft and hard phases, is an appealing frontier in additive manufacturing. However, most 3D printers are limited to either three-axis or mono-material capabilities, rendering them unsuitable for fabricating hybrid scaffolds. Additionally, printing on curved surfaces requires advanced printing capabilities. Our work aims to advance additive manufacturing by developing a hybrid piezoelectric inkjet-extrusion printer equipped with five-axis functionalities. The printer could be used to fabricate customized hybrid scaffolds, surpassing conventional mono-material or linear three-axis printing strategies. The soft phase comprises a low-viscosity photocurable resin and a high-viscosity peptide hydrogel, while the hard phase comprises 3D-printed polylactic acid and hydroxyapatite parts. To validate the system, we fabricated three hybrid scaffolding use cases, characterized by multi-material porous structures fabricated on planar, single-curved, and free-form surfaces. The scaffolds were subsequently analyzed using digital microscopy to assess their accuracy, particularly the feature sizes of pores and struts (i.e., 0.8–3.6 mm). In the first part of the study, we demonstrated the versatility of inkjet and extrusion printing by hybrid printing an interconnected network in the soft phase on top of a planar ceramic hard phase. A pore width and height deviation of 6% was achieved compared to the intended design. In the second part of the study, we evaluated the 3D inkjet printing of a multi-material porous scaffold on a single-curved surface for osteochondral defects. The circumferential pore width and radial pore height deviated by 0.8% and 2%, respectively. Finally, we inkjet-printed a mesh structure on a free-form surface, which acted as a membrane for palatal implants. In this case, the pore width deviations were -16% in the printing direction and 2% perpendicular to the printing direction.

Hybrid 3D printing
Hybrid scaffolds
Non-planar inkjet printing
This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program (Grant number: 953134; INKplant: Ink-based hybrid multi-material fabrication of next-generation implants).
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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International Journal of Bioprinting, Electronic ISSN: 2424-8002 Print ISSN: 2424-7723, Published by AccScience Publishing