3D printed self-supporting elastomeric structures for multifunctional microfluidics

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Science Advances  09 Oct 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 41, eabc9846
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc9846


Microfluidic devices fabricated via soft lithography have demonstrated compelling applications such as lab-on-a-chip diagnostics, DNA microarrays, and cell-based assays. These technologies could be further developed by directly integrating microfluidics with electronic sensors and curvilinear substrates as well as improved automation for higher throughput. Current additive manufacturing methods, such as stereolithography and multi-jet printing, tend to contaminate substrates with uncured resins or supporting materials during printing. Here, we present a printing methodology based on precisely extruding viscoelastic inks into self-supporting microchannels and chambers without requiring sacrificial materials. We demonstrate that, in the submillimeter regime, the yield strength of the as-extruded silicone ink is sufficient to prevent creep within a certain angular range. Printing toolpaths are specifically designed to realize leakage-free connections between channels and chambers, T-shaped intersections, and overlapping channels. The self-supporting microfluidic structures enable the automatable fabrication of multifunctional devices, including multimaterial mixers, microfluidic-integrated sensors, automation components, and 3D microfluidics.

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