High-Throughput Manufacture of 3D Fiber Scaffolds for Regenerative Medicine.
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Engineered scaffolds used to regenerate mammalian tissues should recapitulate the underlying fibrous architecture of native tissue to achieve comparable function. Current fibrous scaffold fabrication processes, such as electrospinning and three-dimensional (3D) printing, possess application-specific advantages, but they are limited either by achievable fiber sizes and pore resolution, processing efficiency, or architectural control in three dimensions. As such, a gap exists in efficiently producing clinically relevant, anatomically sized scaffolds comprising fibers in the 1-100m range that are highly organized. This study introduces a new high-throughput, additive fibrous scaffold fabrication process, designated in this study as 3D melt blowing (3DMB). The 3DMB system described in this study is modified from larger nonwovens manufacturing machinery to accommodate the lower volume, high-cost polymers used for tissue engineering and implantable biomedical devices and has a fiber collection component that uses adaptable robotics to create scaffolds with predetermined geometries. The fundamental process principles, system design, and key parameters are described, and two examples of the capabilities to create scaffolds for biomedical engineering applications are demonstrated. Impact statement Three-dimensional melt blowing (3DMB) is a new, high-throughput, additive manufacturing process to produce scaffolds composed of highly organized fibers in the anatomically relevant 1-100m range. Unlike conventional melt-blowing systems, the 3DMB process is configured for efficient use with the relatively expensive polymers necessary for biomedical applications, decreasing the required amounts of material for processing while achieving high throughputs compared with 3D printing or electrospinning. The 3DMB is demonstrated to make scaffolds composed of multiple fiber materials and organized into complex shapes, including those typical of human body parts.