Hydrophilic (AB)n Segmented Copolymers for Melt Extrusion‐Based Additive Manufacturing

Several manufacturing technologies beneficially involve processing from the melt, including extrusion‐based printing, electrospinning, and electrohydrodynamic jetting. In this study, (AB)n segmented copolymers are tailored for melt‐processing to form physically crosslinked hydrogels after swelling. The copolymers are composed of hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol)‐based segments and hydrophobic bisurea segments, which form physical crosslinks via hydrogen bonds. The degree of polymerization was adjusted to match the melt viscosity to the different melt‐processing techniques. Using extrusion‐based printing, a width of approximately 260 µm is printed into 3D constructs, with excellent interlayer bonding at fiber junctions, due to hydrogen bonding between the layers. For melt electrospinning, much thinner fibers in the range of about 1–15 µm are obtained and produced in a typical nonwoven morphology. With melt electrowriting, fibers are deposited in a controlled way to well‐defined 3D constructs. In this case, multiple fiber layers fuse together enabling constructs with line width in the range of 70 to 160 µm. If exposed to water the printed constructs swell and form physically crosslinked hydrogels that slowly disintegrate, which is a feature for soluble inks within biofabrication strategies. In this context, cytotoxicity tests confirm the viability of cells and thus demonstrating biocompatibility of this class of copolymers demonstrated.

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