Researchers Find New Way to 3D Print Microchannels using Silicone Sealant as the Ink

Posted on 9/5/2019 6:37:36 PM By ASC

Researchers at Singapore University of Technology and Design's (SUTD) Soft Fluidics Lab researchers have found a way around the current challenges facing the use of 3D printing for microchannel fabrication. The solution, according to the researchers, lies in 3D printing fast-curing silicone sealant in direct ink writing (DIW) straight onto substrates like glass, plastic and membranes, as well as already-printed circuit boards and other flat surfaces.

The approach could solve existing challenges in fabricating microchannels with 3D printing such as flexibility, optical transparency and biocompatibility in materials; the limitations on the dimensions current commercial 3D printers can control and achieve, and the integration of 3D printed microfluidics with functional substrates and materials. 

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In using DIW, the patterned silicone sealant determines the design of the fluidic channels while the transparent substrates above and below seal them. This allows for dimensions to be dynamically tuned, and channel widths to be reduced to around 30 microns. The channels can also be imaged on a microscope.

The researchers reported that DIW 3D printing of silicone sealant on an existing circuit board allowed for integrating electrodes into the microchannels immediately, to act as real-time flow sensors. The method can also be used for integrating semi-permeable membranes in microchannels to culture keratinocyte cells.

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