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Keywords:

  • robocasting;
  • scaffolds;
  • PCL coating;
  • in situ polymerization;
  • mechanical properties

In situ ring-opening polymerization of ε-caprolactone (ε-CL) was performed to coat β-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP) scaffolds fabricated by robocasting in order to enhance their mechanical performance while preserving the predesigned macropore architecture. Concentrated colloidal inks prepared from β-TCP commercial powders were used to fabricate porous structures consisting of a three-dimensional mesh of interpenetrating rods. Then, ε-CL was in situ polymerized within the ceramic structure using a lipase as catalyst and toluene as solvent, to obtain a highly homogeneous coating and full impregnation of in-rod microporosity. The strength and toughness of scaffolds coated by ε-polycaprolactone (ε-PCL) were significantly increased (twofold and fivefold increase, respectively) over those of the bare structures. Enhancement of both properties is associated to the healing of preexisting microdefects in the bioceramic rods. These enhancements are compared to results from previous work on fully impregnated structures. The implications of the results for the optimization of the mechanical and biological performance of scaffolds for bone tissue engineering applications are discussed. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 101A: 3551–3559, 2013.