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A Low-Cost Method to Prepare Biocompatible Filaments with Enhanced Physico-Mechanical Properties for FDM 3D Printing

[ Vol. 18 , Issue. 6 ]


Deck Khong Tan, Niko Münzenrieder, Mohammed Maniruzzaman and Ali Nokhodchi*   Pages 700 - 711 ( 12 )


Background: Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printing has received much interest as a fabrication method in the medical and pharmaceutical industry due to its accessibility and cost-effectiveness. A low-cost method to produce biocompatible and biodegradable filaments can improve the usability of FDM 3D printing for biomedical applications.

Objectives: The feasibility of producing low-cost filaments suitable for FDM 3D printing via single screw and twin-screw hot melt extrusion was explored.

Methods: A single-screw extruder and a twin-screw extruder were used to produce biocompatible filaments composed of varying concentrations of polyethylene glycol (PEG) at 10%, 20%, 30% w/w and polylactic acid (PLA) 90%, 80% and 70% w/w, respectively. DSC, TGA and FTIR were employed to investigate the effect of PEG on the PLA filaments.

Results: The presence of PEG lowered the processing temperature of the formulation compositions via melt-extrusion, making it suitable for pharmaceutical applications. The use of PEG can lower the melting point of the PLA polymer to 170°C, hence lowering the printing temperature. PEG can also improve the plasticity of the filaments, as the rupture strain of twin-screw extruded filaments increased up to 10-fold as compared to the commercial filaments. Advanced application of FTIR analysis confirmed the compatibility and miscibility of PEG with PLA.

Conclusion: Twin-screw extrusion is more effective in producing a polymeric mixture of filaments as the mixing is more homogenous. The PEG/PLA filament is suitable to be used in 3D printing of medical or pharmaceutical applications such as medical implants, drug delivery systems, or personalised tablets.


Biocompatible, biopolymers, filaments, FDM 3D printing, hot melt extrusion, polyethylene glycol (PEG).


Pharmaceutics Research Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QJ, Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Bozen, Pharmaceutical Engineering and 3D Printing (PharmE3D) Lab, Division of Molecular Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery College of Pharmacy, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, Pharmaceutics Research Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QJ

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