A groundbreaking study has led to the development of 3D printed unique fluid channels at the micron scale. The study carried out by researchers at the University of Minnesota in association with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development could automate the production of sensors, diagnostics, and assays used for a variety of medical tests and other applications.
In fact, the team is the first for 3D printing of these structures on a curved surface, thereby providing the initial step for printing them directly on the skin.
Applications of Microfluidics varied for medical use
Meanwhile, microfluidics is a fast expanding field that involves controlling flow of fluid at the micron scale. Microfluidics is used in a wide range of application areas including medical diagnostics, environmental sensing, drug screening, pregnancy testing, and other biological assays.
The valuation of the global microfluidics market is currently estimated at billions of dollars. Typically, microfluidic devices are fabricated in a cleanroom controlled-environment using a complex, multi-step method called photolithography. The fabrication process of microfluidic devices involves a silicone liquid that flows over a patterned surface, and then treated so that the patterns create channels in the solidified silicone slab.
On the other hand, the new method involves fabrication of microfluidic channels in a single step using 3D printing. For this, the team employed a custom-built 3D printer for direct printing of the microfluidic channels on the top side in an open lab environment. In terms of size, the microfluidic channels have a diameter of about 300 microns, which is about three times that of a human hair. Following the fabrication of microfluidic devices, the team showed the flow of liquid can be controlled, re-directed, and pumped using a series of valves.