Printability study of metal ion crosslinked PEG-catechol based inks

In this paper we explore the printability of reversible networks formed by catechol functionalized PEG solutions and metal cations (Al3+, Fe3+ or V3+). The printability and shape fidelity were dependent on the ink composition (metal ion type, pH, PEG molecular weight) and printing parameters (extrusion pressure and printing speed). The relaxation time, recovery rate and viscosity of the inks were analyzed in rheology studies and correlated with thermodynamic and ligand exchange kinetic constants of the dynamic bonds and the printing performance (i.e. shape fidelity of the printed structures). The relevance of the relaxation time and ligand exchange kinetics for printability was demonstrated. Cells seeded on the materials crosslinked with Al3+, Fe3+ ions were viable and revealed well-spread morphologies during 7 day culture, indicating the potential of the formulations to be used as inks for cell encapsulation. The proposed dynamic ink design offers significant flexibility for 3D bioprinting, and enables straightforward adjustment of the printable formulation to meet application-specific needs.