Bioprinting shows great promise as a manufacturing technique in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. As the field progresses towards larger and more complex structures, the lack of suitable bioinks has proven to be a major limitation. This is primarily due to the apparent contradiction between achieving both desirable bioactivity and printability. Bioactivity refers to the ability of an engineered biomaterial to induce a physiological response supportive of its function and performance. Printability generally refers to a material’s ability to accurately reproduce a target structure. In contrast to quantitative methods and steady improvements to bioink bioactivity, many studies use a purely qualitative analysis for the assessment of bioink printability, as very few reliable quantitative methods have been developed. Rheological measurements are common as putative quantitative measures but only reliably describe the extrudability of a material, thus failing to address all aspects of printability.
Bioprinting would benefit greatly from a comprehensive, standardized, and bioink-specific method for the quantitative evaluation of printability. Several such measures have been developed in the past, including tube height, overhang collapse, and Pr. While these printability measurements are likely correlated, it is unlikely any one of them suffices for all others completely. Further, no method has been adopted across different research groups, limiting standardization and cross-study comparisons. Our overarching objective is to develop a robust image analysis pipeline to standardize the quantitative evaluation of bioink printability using the bioink printability artifact developed by CECT. This project will help establish new standards and benchmarks in 3D printing and bioprinting.