Important Things to Know For Microfluidics 3D Printing

April 22, 2022

What is Microfluidics?

Microfluidics is the study of fluid behaviour in microscale channels, is becoming increasingly important for medical and laboratory diagnostics. For

handling fluid samples of one part per (1 ppm) or less, microfluidic devices (MFDs) provide a quick, safe, and cost-effective way to sequence DNA (genomics) and RNA (transcriptomics). These tiny diagnostic devices are also used to characterize proteins (proteomics) and metabolites (metabolomics). With lab-on-a-chip (LOC) technology, extremely small fluid volumes can be measured in femtoliters (fL), a quadrillionth of a liter.

So Why is Microfluidics Important?

  • Size — When working with microfluidics, same discoveries can be made with smaller sample sizes. Experiments conducted on smaller scale reduces sample wastage.
  • Time — Reactions happen quicker with small samples. Time of experiment is shorter in microfluidics, thus results can be observed faster. Multiple analyses can also be conducted at the same time.
  • Cost — Microfluidics cost less because of smaller samples and take less time to complete experiments.

Microfluidics 3D Printing

3D printing can produce intricate objects like microfluidic devices, but few technologies can create microscale components with fine features and tight tolerances at the required resolution, desired speed, and with polymers that have the required properties.

Challenges with Traditional Microfluidics Manufacturing Methods

  • Micro injection molding requires precision tooling that can be expensive to machine or that take weeks or even months to arrive.
  • Soft lithography limits researchers’ ability to produce complex 3D channels, a concern for designers who want to create microchannels with diameters less than 100 microns (μm) and that have high aspect ratios.
  • Lamination requires cutting the desired microfluidic features into layers and then bonding these individual layers together to form a functioning unit in a multi-step process that is both labor intensive and time-consuming.

Projection Micro Stereolithography (PμSL), a patented stereolithography (SLA) technology that has been commercialized by Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF), strikes the right balance between speed and precision. PμSL also supports the use of polymers with application-specific properties such as withstanding high temperatures and/or providing chemical resistance and biocompatibility and can produce complete microfluidic devices (MFD) with a good quality surface finish for proper fluid flow. Moreover, these tiny devices can be used for either prototyping or end-use. In addition to fabricating complete MFDs, BMF’s microArch 3D printers can support the production of high precision micro-tooling for soft lithography, capable of fabricating small components down to 2μm resolution and +/- 10μm accuracy at scale.

Learn More About PμSL

Micro 3D printing with PμSL technology strikes the right balance between speed and precision while providing application-specific benefits for fabricating the microfluidic devices used with single cell assays and digital PCR. 

BMF’s microscale 3D printers can produce small components with 2μm resolution and +/- 10μm accuracy at scale. The microArch family of 3D printers also enables design complexity and supports the use of resins that can meet microfluidics requirements. BMF’s own UV-curable materials include acrylate-based resins that combine biocompatibility with high temperature and chemical resistance for microfluidics applications such as single cell analysis and digital PCR.

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PμSL micro 3D printing?


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