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Abstract

Polymer nanofibers are favorable for tissue engineering scaffolds because of their high surface-to-volume ratio and biomimicry of the extracellular matrix. Random and uniaxially oriented polymer nanofibers are easily fabricated by conventional electrospinning techniques; however, control over fiber organization within nanofiber structures is limited when they are collected directly from an electrospinning jet. The regenerative medicine applications of electrospun scaffolds could be expanded by developing assembly methods that allow better control of fiber organization. Here, a novel technique is presented that utilizes parallel automated tracks to orient and collect nanofibers from an electrospinning jet. The stabilized fibers are then subsequently assembled into desirable structures. It is difficult to assemble complex structures directly from an electrospinning jet because of high electrical charge and velocities, so this technology adds an intermediate step where nanofibers are immobilized on automated tracks. The result is a continuous steady-state delivery of static stabilized nanofibers that provides a unique and promising platform for automated post processing into useful nanofiber structures. This technique also allows for an indefinite amount of time, as determined by design parameters, for fibers to dry or cool before they contact other nanofibers in the collection site, thus eliminating potential for fiber-to-fiber adhesions even with slow evaporating solvents or high-temperature melts. To demonstrate potential in regenerative medicine applications, several nanofiber structures were fabricated, including: 2D structures with well-controlled fiber density; 3D loosely assembled aligned nanofiber structures with good cell penetration properties; and, complex layer-by-layer 3D aligned fiber structures assembled by integration with post-processing techniques.