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3D printing of photocurable materials, bioinks, and hydrogels



Researchers in the Burdick lab have developed a method for 3D printing photocurable materials without the need for highly viscous inks or other stabilizing components to maintain the integrity of printed structures.  This strategy allows for cross-linking of material during the printing process, whereas previous approaches utilize pre-crosslinking of material prior to extrusion or post-crosslinking after deposition.  By exposing methacrylated hyaluronic acid (or other photocurable polymers such as gelatin methacrylamide or PEG diacrylate) to ultraviolet light through a UV light-permeable capillary in tandem with a standard 3D printing nozzle, a continuous filament can be printed without clogging the printer head.  Thus, crosslinking occurs within the capillary and prevents material dispersion that occurs when attempting to cure after deposition. When the ink leaves the needle, the resulting filament can serve as a building block for the fabrication of complex 3D structures.  A variety of structure geometries have been printed, and studies of filament size, printability control, and cell viability have been performed.


Representative printed structures.  Typical porous layer-by-layer structure in (A) with microscopy images in (B).  Geometries of circular cone (C), hollow tubes (D, E), and nose (F).  Scale bars for (A, C-F) 5 mm, (B) 0.5 mm.



·         Low-cost, cell-compatible method applicable to any hydrogel or bio-ink reacting to UV or visible light exposure

·         Readily integrate cross-linking strategy into existing 3D printing systems

·         Obviate need for highly viscous hydrogels to maintain integrity of printed structures

·         Maintains cells with high cell viability (95%)

·         Control gel material properties by adjusting UV intensity and exposure time



·         3D printing of heterogeneous networks or core/shell structures

·         3D printing of cell-laden inks and hydrogels

·         Incorporate therapeutics, cytokines, or growth factors into 3D printed network

·         Deposit photocurable materials that have been light-irradiated



Stage of Development:

·         Prototype developed and proof-of-concept testing of direct cell printing


Intellectual Property:

Provisional pending


Reference Media:

Manuscript in review.


Desired Partnerships:

1.    License

2.    Co-development


Download PDF


Docket #: 16-7934

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Sarah Johnson
Licensing Officer
University of Pennsylvania
Jason Burdick