In this study, well-defined, 3D arrays of air-suspended melt electrowritten fibers are made from medical grade poly(ɛ-caprolactone) (PCL). Low processing temperatures, lower voltages, lower ambient temperature, increased collector distance, and high collector speeds all aid to direct-write suspended fibers that can span gaps of several millimeters between support structures. Such processing parameters are quantitatively determined using a “wedge-design” melt electrowritten test frame to identify the conditions that increase the suspension probability of long-distance fibers. All the measured parameters impact the probability that a fiber is suspended over multimillimeter distances. The height of the suspended fibers can be controlled by a concurrently fabricated fiber wall and the 3D suspended PCL fiber arrays investigated with early post-natal mouse dorsal root ganglion explants. The resulting Schwann cell and neurite outgrowth extends substantial distances by 21 d, following the orientation of the suspended fibers and the supporting walls, often generating circular whorls of high density Schwann cells between the suspended fibers. This research provides a design perspective and the fundamental parametric basis for suspending individual melt electrowritten fibers into a form that facilitates cell culture.
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