One of the main issues in orthopaedic implant design is the fabrication of scaffolds that closely mimic the biomechanical properties of the surrounding bone. This research reports on a multi-stage rapid prototyping technique that was successfully developed to produce porous titanium scaffolds with fully interconnected pore networks and reproducible porosity and pore size. The scaffolds' porous characteristics were governed by a sacrificial wax template, fabricated using a commercial 3D-printer. Powder metallurgy processes were employed to generate the titanium scaffolds by filling around the wax template with titanium slurry, In the attempt to optimise the powder metallurgy technique, variations in Slurry concentration, compaction pressure and sintering temperature were investigated. By altering the wax design template, pore sizes ranging from 200 to 400 pm were achieved. Scaffolds with porosities of 66.8 +/- 3.6% revealed compression strengths of 104.4 +/- 22.5 MPa in the axial direction and 23.5 +/- 9.6 MPa in the transverse direction demonstrating their anisotropic nature. Scaffold topography was characterised using scanning electron microscopy and microcomputed tomography. Three-dimensional reconstruction enabled the main architectural parameters such as pore size, interconnecting porosity, level of anisotropy and level of structural disorder to be determined. The titanium scaffolds were compared to their intended designs, as governed by their sacrificial wax templates. Although discrepancies in architectural parameters existed between the intended and the actual scaffolds, overall the results indicate that the porous titanium scaffolds have the Properties to be potentially employed in orthopaeclic applications. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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