This Scholar-in-Residence project will seek to better understand two new types of 3D printed bone replacements that are based on an inert bioceramic material, zirconia, and a biodegradable bioceramic material, calcium phosphate. Calcium phosphate is a compelling material for bone replacement implants (e.g., synthetic bone grafts) since it stimulates bone formation on the surface of medical device. A new type of calcium phosphate material will be 3D printed, which contains a gradient between (a) a form of calcium phosphate that rapidly releases bone-stimulating chemicals and (b) a form of calcium phosphate that can serve as long-lasting interface between an implant and the surrounding bone. Since zirconia surfaces with micro- and nano-roughened features exhibit better bone integration properties than smooth zirconia surfaces, a new type of patterned zirconia biomaterial will be created by 3D printing and laser texturing. A collaboration between NC State University and FDA researchers will seek to understand the relationships among the bioceramic processing parameters, physical properties, chemical properties, mechanical properties, and in vitro biological responses for the novel 3D printed ceramics. The results of this project will reduce knowledge gaps related to 3D printed ceramics and will lead to new types of synthetic bone grafts, which will provide an improved quality of life for patients who suffer from various orthopedic conditions. Science Saturday lectures and hands-on activities will disseminate results from the project to elementary school students, middle school students, high school students, and other visitors to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Information on recent advances in medical 3D printing, including results from this project, will be disseminated to teachers across the state of North Carolina via an online workshop series.

Technical Abstract

The project will take advantage of the unique capabilities at NC State University related to processing and characterization of novel biomaterials and at the FDA related to biological characterization of novel biomaterials to systematically evaluate fabrication, post processing (e.g., patterning and sterilization), and the biological response to two new types of 3D printed bioceramics, patterned zirconia and functionally gradient calcium phosphate. Phase I of the project will involve understanding the physico-chemical properties of the 3D printed patterned zirconia and functionally gradient calcium phosphate parts. For example, scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy will be used to assess the reproducibility and uniformity of the surface features of the 3D printed bioceramics. X-ray diffraction and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy will be used to examine the microstructure and the presence of impurities in the 3D printed bioceramics, respectively. Phase II of the project will involve the use of nanoindentation and four-point bend testing to understand the mechanical properties of the 3D printed bioceramics. Phase III of the project will utilize FDA facilities to evaluate interactions between application-relevant cells (e.g., bone marrow stromal cells and osteoblast-like cells) and the 3D printed bioceramics through protein absorption, cell adhesion dynamics, cell morphology, cell proliferation, and osteogenic differentiation studies. This proposal is unique in that the PI team will systematically evaluate fabrication, post processing, material characteristics, mechanical properties, and biological response to two new types of 3D printed bioceramics. The data obtained in this Scholar-in-Residence project will be relevant to the development of 3D printed bioceramic medical devices and the improvement of international consensus standards that facilitate regulatory decision-making for 3D printed medical devices.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Randy Duran
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
North Carolina State University Raleigh
United States
Zip Code