Printability study of metal ion crosslinked PEG-catechol based inks
Inspired by reversible networks present in nature, we have explored the printability of catechol functionalized polyethylene glycol (PEG) based inks with metal-coordination crosslinking. Material formulations containing Al3+, Fe3+ or V3+ as crosslinking ions were tested. The printability and shape fidelity were dependent on the ink composition (metal ion type, pH, PEG molecular weight) and printing parameters (extrusion pressure and printing speed). The relaxation time, recovery rate and viscosity of the inks were analyzed in rheology studies and correlated with thermodynamic and ligand exchange kinetic constants of the dynamic bonds and the printing performance (i.e. shape fidelity of the printed structures). The relevance of the relaxation time and ligand exchange kinetics for printability was demonstrated. Cells seeded on the crosslinked materials were viable, indicating the potential of the formulations to be used as inks for cell encapsulation. The proposed dynamic ink design offers significant flexibility for 3D (bio)printing, and enables straightforward adjustment of the printable formulation to meet application-specific needs.