One of the goals of low cost 3D printing is to be able to create medical and scientific devices from it. Diagnostically capable microfluidic models represent the first step into this exciting new world of 3D printing and biosensing capabilities.
A microfluidic mixer is a device that causes fluids flowing within to mix more than they otherwise would. Given the flow properties of very small liquid flows, this is usually a challenge.
Having a specific device dedicated to mixing allows for small quantities of expensive medications to be manufactured. In a review by Anton Enders and his team, several different types of microfluidic geometries are compared using the MultiJet 3D printing method.
One of the advantages of microfluidics is its ability to separate and create small countable units of fluid. Researchers from Cardiff University used Ultimaker 3D printers to do just that.
But why would we need to make spheres using microfluidics? As they mention in the video, spheres are made for biomedical applications as well as nuclear energy applications. Furthermore, the simple ability to “count” small volumes of fluid can be helpful. Exact volumes of fluid can be deposited in a digital manner based upon the number of counted spheres.
ESCARGOT Method (Multilayer Complex Microfluidic Geometries)
Multilayer or complex microfluidic geometries, including components like mixers and valves, are oftentimes difficult to create. Thankfully, researchers at Wageningen University and the University of Castilla-La Mancha developed the ESCARGOT method, which allows for complex three-dimensional microfluidic forms to be created along with embedded non-3D-printed materials, if desired.
This method involves printing an ABS template that is encapsulated in PDMS. After curing, the template is removed using solvent extraction. The process has many uses, including an embedded heating element for selective heating of fluid across a particular area of the microfluidic device.
This method, developed by researchers at North Carolina State University, uses fugitive metal ink to draw microfluidic structures.
Essentially, a thin layer of gallium metal is printed onto a surface. After solidifying, the surface is encapsulated in another polymer layer poured over it. After the polymer solidifies, the fugitive metal ink can be removed using solvent methods (HCl). Alternatively, it can be removed by using an electrical field to drive the metal out over time.
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