scafSLICR: A MATLAB-based slicing algorithm to enable 3D-printing of tissue engineering scaffolds with heterogeneous porous microarchitecture
Nyberg E, O’Sullivan A, Grayson W
Application of three-dimensional printing technologies to craniofacial bone regeneration requires precise manufacture of scaffolds presenting the macroscale geometry matched to the patient as well as the microarchitecture required to direct tissue regeneration. Realization of porous scaffolds for regeneration of craniofacial structures is not trivial, considering the geometric complexity of the craniofacial skeletal structures and the effects of porosity on the mechanical properties of the scaffold. Slicing software transforms these complex 3D shapes into specific instructive pathways in 3D printing workflows to inform the pattern of material addition required to realize the part design. Interestingly, the utility of available slicing software for production of designs of relevance to tissue engineering has been limited. A recent article by Nyberg et al. reports development of a MATLAB-based slicing algorithm that enables 3D-printing of tissue engineering scaffolds with regionally defined porous microarchitectures within an overall shape provided by the user. The slicing software was designed specifically for fused deposition modeling printer formats and enabled design of homogeneous, heterogeneous, and gradient porosities within shapes input by the user. The authors demonstrated the ability of the software to support fabrication of 3D-printed structures closely matching the structures designed by the software. The article also provides examples of application of the software in the fabrication of 3D-printed scaffolds for craniofacial bone structures, including the zygomatic arch, hemi-mandible, and orbital midface, in which regionally-defined pore sizes and porosities were designed. While the software presented in the article remains to be validated at the level required for medical application, the article marks an important step toward development of versatile slicing software for 3D-printing of tissue engineering scaffolds and highlights important considerations in 3D printing of complex porous scaffolds for craniofacial bone tissue engineering.