RSC Adv. 2022 Sep 22;12(39):25605-25616. doi: 10.1039/d2ra03911g. eCollection 2022 Sep 5.
3D printing involves the use of photopolymerizable resins, which are toxic and typically have incompatible properties with materials such as polystyrene (PS), which present limitations for biomedical applications. We present a method to dramatically improve the poor adhesion between the PS insulative layer on 3D printed Microelectrode Array (MEA) substrates by functionalizing the resin surface with polydopamine (PDA), a mussel-inspired surface chemistry derivative. A commercial 3D printing prepolymer resin, FormLabs Clear (FLC), was printed using a digital light processing (DLP) printer and then surface functionalized with PDA by alkali-induced aqueous immersion deposition and self-polymerization. It was observed that the adhesion of the PS to FLC was improved due to the precision emanating from the DLP method and further improved after the functionalization of DLP printed substrates with PDA at 1, 12, and 24 h time intervals. The adhesion of PS was evaluated through scotch tape peel testing and instron measurements of planar substrates and incubation testing with qualitative analysis of printed culture wells. The composition and topology of the samples were studied to understand how the properties of the surface change after PDA functionalization and how this contributes to the overall improvement in PS adhesion. Furthermore, the surface energies at each PDA deposition time were calculated from contact angle studies as it related to adhesion. Finally, biocompatibility assays of the newly modified surfaces were performed using mouse cardiac cells (HL-1) to demonstrate the biocompatibility of the PDA functionalization process. PDA surface functionalization of 3D DLP printed FLC resin resulted in a dramatic improvement of thin film PS adhesion and proved to be a biocompatible solution for improving additive manufacturing processes to realize biosensors such as in vitro MEAs.