Utilization of 3D Printing Technology to Facilitate and Standardize Soft Tissue Testing
Three-dimensional (3D) printing has become broadly available and can be utilized to customize clamping mechanisms in biomechanical experiments. This report will describe our experience using 3D printed clamps to mount soft tissues from different anatomical regions. The feasibility and potential limitations of the technology will be discussed. Tissues were sourced in a fresh condition, including human skin, ligaments and tendons. Standardized clamps and fixtures were 3D printed and used to mount specimens. In quasi-static tensile tests combined with digital image correlation and fatigue trials we characterized the applicability of the clamping technique. Scanning electron microscopy was utilized to evaluate the specimens to assess the integrity of the extracellular matrix following the mechanical tests. 3D printed clamps showed no signs of clamping-related failure during the quasi-static tests, and intact extracellular matrix was found in the clamping area, at the transition clamping area and the central area from where the strain data was obtained. In the fatigue tests, material slippage was low, allowing for cyclic tests beyond 105cycles. Comparison to other clamping techniques yields that 3D printed clamps ease and expedite specimen handling, are highly adaptable to specimen geometries and ideal for high-standardization and high-throughput experiments in soft tissue biomechanics.