SIM-AM 2023

Development of an In-Silico Approach for the Design of Extrusion-Based Bioprinting Process

  • Chirianni, Francesco (University of Rome Tor Vergata)
  • Vairo, Giuseppe (University of Rome Tor Vergata)
  • Marino, Michele (University of Rome Tor Vergata)

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Extrusion-based bioprinting is an additive manufacturing technique for the fabrication of biological constructs through layer-by-layer deposition of a bio-ink (viable cells suspended in a biomaterial solution). The planning of a bioprinting procedure involves the definition of several process variables. In extrusion-based bioprinting typical process variables are the printing pressure, nozzle diameter, target extrusion velocity and/or mass flow rate. Moreover, the need to ensure high cell viability at the end of the process is a major critical concern in the bioprinting planning. In fact, the printing mechanism can expose cells to stresses that can lead to the disruption of the outer cell membrane. Two hydrodinamic stress fields mainly arise during extrusion, that are the shear stress field and the extensional one. In order to maintain stresses below a threshold value that ensures high cell viability at the end of the extrusion process, all the afore-introduced process variables must be properly chosen. Unfortunately, these are closely interconnected through the non-linear rheological response of bio-inks. Shear-thinning behaviour of bio-inks, as well as non-simple geometries of the extruding system, introduce complex and non- linear relationships between process variables. High mass flow rate is desirable, for instance, to speed-up printing operations, but at the same time leads to higher stresses that affect cell viabilty. Hence, the bioprinting planning in laboratory practice is generally made through an expensive and time-consuming trial-and-error procedure. The aim of this work is to develop a novel in-silico approach that allows for a fast, effective and feasible set-up of target bioprinting conditions. Coupled influences of fundamental process variables on the extrusion process are modeled via a semi-analytical reduced-order technique, involving a calibration procedure based on few high-fidelity numerical simulations. In this way, nomograms relating process variables to cell viability are built up. Accordingly, useful indications towards an effective process design tool for bioprinting planning are provided. For instance, nomograms allow to easily obtain how the extrusion velocity, mass flow rate and cell viability vary as function of nozzle diameter and printing pressure, or otherwise how the printing pressure shall vary when nozzle diameter is changed in order to maintain a constant extrusion velocity, mass flow rate or cell viability.