The Multiweek Thermal Stability of Medical-Grade Poly(ε-caprolactone) During Melt Electrowriting

Christoph Böhm, Philipp Stahlhut, Jan Weichhold, Andrei Hrynevich, Jörg Teßmar, Paul D Dalton

Published: 2021


Melt electrowriting (MEW) is a high-resolution additive manufacturing technology that places unique constraints on the processing of thermally degradable polymers. With a single nozzle, MEW operates at low throughput and in this study, medical-grade poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) is heated for 25 d at three different temperatures (75, 85, and 95 °C), collecting daily samples. There is an initial increase in the fiber diameter and decrease in the jet speed over the first 5 d, then the MEW process remains stable for the 75 and 85 °C groups. When the collector speed is fixed to a value at least 10% above the jet speed, the diameter remains constant for 25 d at 75 °C and only increases with time for 85 and 95 °C. Fiber fusion at increased layer height is observed for 85 and 95 °C, while the surface morphology of single fibers remain similar for all temperatures. The properties of the prints are assessed with no observable changes in the degree of crystallinity or the Young’s modulus, while the yield strength decreases in later phases only for 95 °C. After the initial 5-d period, the MEW processing of PCL at 75 °C is extraordinarily stable with overall fiber diameters averaging 13.5 ± 1.0 µm over the entire 25-d period.

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