Additive Manufacturing of Bovine Serum Albumin-Based Hydrogels and Bioplastics

Bio-sourced and biodegradable polymers for additive manufacturing could enable the rapid fabrication of parts for a broad spectrum of applications ranging from healthcare to aerospace. However, a limited number of these materials are suitable for vat photopolymerization processes. Herein, we report a two-step additive manufacturing process to fabricate robust protein-based constructs using a commercially available laser-based SLA printer. Methacrylated bovine serum albumin (MA-BSA) was synthesized and formulated into aqueous resins that were used to print complex 3D objects with a resolution comparable to a commercially available resin. The MA-BSA resins were characterized by rheometry to determine the viscosity and the cure rate, as both of these parameters can ultimately be used to predict the printability of the resin. In the first step of patterning these materials, the MA-BSA resin was 3D printed, and in the second step, the printed construct was thermally cured to denature the globular protein and increase the intermolecular noncovalent interactions. Thus, the final 3D printed part was comprised of both chemical and physical cross-links. Compression studies of hydrated and dehydrated constructs demonstrated a broad range of compressive strengths and Young’s moduli that could be further modulated by adjusting the type and amount of co-monomer. The printed hydrogel constructs demonstrated good cell viability (> 95%) after a 21-day culture period. These MA-BSA resins are expected to be compatible with other vat photopolymerization techniques including digital light projection (DLP) and continuous liquid interface production (CLIP).