Scientists in China have developed a new method for 3D printing microfluidic chips with high resolution and scalability. Traditional methods for fabricating microfluidic chips, such as soft lithography and hot embossing, have limitations in terms of complexity, cost, and productivity. The researchers, led Zhuming Luo, proposed a modified digital light processing (DLP) method that allows for the precise fabrication of microchannels.
Microfluidic chips are widely used in applications such as 3D cell culture, drug screening, and organ-on-a-chip assays. However, existing fabrication methods have drawbacks that hinder their widespread adoption. The team used DLP, a cost-effective microfabrication approach, to address these limitations. While previous DLP methods were limited to sub-100-micron scale resolutions, this new method allows for increased resolution.
The researchers developed a mathematical model to predict UV irradiance for resin photopolymerization, which guided the fabrication of microchannels with higher resolution. By fine-tuning printing parameters, they were able to tailor the photopolymerization of resin layers, avoiding issues such as channel blocking.
Compared to conventional methods, this new approach allowed for the batch production of up to 16 microfluidic chips. The precise and scalable microchannel development achieved through this method is a significant advancement for biomedicine applications.
The team used stepwise UV irradiation to polymerize the resin layer--layer, regulated the mathematical model they developed. By accurately dividing the microchannels into multiple layers and controlling the zones for each projection step, they achieved higher printing fidelity and smoother internal surfaces within the microchannels.
This new method has the potential to revolutionize the field of microfluidics enabling the production of highly precise and scalable microfluidic devices. The applications of this technology in biomedicine, such as in drug development and organ-on-a-chip systems, are expected to benefit greatly from this advancement.
Source: Microsystems & Nanoengineering (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41378-023-00542-y