Materials science & engineering. C, Materials for biological applications

Enhanced sintering ability of biphasic calcium phosphate by polymers used for bone scaffold fabrication.

PMID 23910280


Biphasic calcium phosphate (BCP), which is composed of hydroxyapatite [HAP, Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2] and β-tricalcium phosphate [β-TCP, β-Ca3(PO4)2], is usually difficult to densify into a solid state with selective laser sintering (SLS) due to the short sintering time. In this study, the sintering ability of BCP ceramics was significantly improved by adding a small amount of polymers, by which a liquid phase was introduced during the sintering process. The effects of the polymer content, laser power and HAP/β-TCP ratios on the microstructure, chemical composition and mechanical properties of the BCP scaffolds were investigated. The results showed that the BCP scaffolds became increasingly more compact with the increase of the poly(l-lactic acid) (PLLA) content (0-1 wt.%) and laser power (6-10 W). The fracture toughness and micro-hardness of the sintered scaffolds were also improved. Moreover, PLLA could be gradually decomposed in the late sintering stages and eliminated from the final BCP scaffolds if the PLLA content was below a certain value (approximately 1 wt.% in this case). The added PLLA could not be completely eliminated when its content was further increased to 1.5 wt.% or higher because an unexpected carbon phase was detected in the sintered scaffolds. Furthermore, many pores were observed due to the removal of PLLA. Micro-cracks and micro-pores occurred when the laser power was too high (12 W). These defects resulted in a deterioration of the mechanical properties. The hardness and fracture toughness reached maximum values of 490.3±10 HV and 1.72±0.10 MPa m(1/2), respectively, with a PLLA content of approximately 1 wt.% and laser power of approximately 10 W. Poly(l-lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) showed similar effects on the sintering process of BCP ceramics. Rectangular, porous BCP scaffolds were fabricated based on the optimum values of the polymer content and laser power. This work may provide an experimental basis for improving the mechanical properties of BCP bone scaffolds fabricated with SLS.