Multimaterial 3D laser microprinting using an integrated microfluidic system: A short review
In an article published by Frederik Mayer, Stefan Richter, Johann Westhauser, Eva Blasco, Christopher Barner-Kowollik, and Martin Wegener in the journal “Science Advances“, the authors show that 3D laser microprinting combined with microfluidics can be used to print 3D complex multimaterial structures. The demonstrated system employs a fine and smooth handling of the various different fluids and can be used for a broad range of applications.
Thus far, 3D laser-micro and nanoprinting offered a widespread alternative to prepare complex but single constituent 3D microfluidic structure. This work proposes a system based on a microfluidic chamber integrated into a state-of-the-art laser lithography apparatus that allows the use of several materials to 3D print complex structures in the most effective manner. This concept is applied to the use of seven liquids for the realization of complex 3D microstructures, based on the fine and fast handling of the various components that could be employed in a wide range of industrial applications.
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INTRODUCTION TO 3D MULTICOMPONENT LASER PRINTING
3D laser micro- and nanoprinting describes the direct laser writing technique by multi-photon polymerization. Due to its unique properties and characteristics, it has proven to be an indispensable tool to high accuracy structuring and has been put on the map as an emerging technology for scaffold 3D printing. It has been used for a broad range of industrial applications from 3D photonic crystals [1-2], mechanical metamaterials [3-6] to micro-scaffolds for cell culture [7-9]. Despite the growing field of applications, the technology is limited by the number of components that can be employed to generate such structure; this is primordial for many researchers who want to push further their research in the study of phenomena that occur or imply mechanisms occurring in three dimensions.
AIM & OBJECTIVES
- Technical challenge due to the handling of fluids of various composition and viscosities, leading to very large gas pressure differences, required to push the liquid through small diameter tubing to obtain small Reynolds numbers in the channel.
- To develop an all-included effective technique to make 3D complex multicomponent structures via microfluidics for a broad range of applications.
This work introduces a microfluidic system that can perform all photoresist injections and sample development steps inside the laser lithography machine. The 3D-printing is obtained by repeatedly and separately injecting, printing and developing the various solutions. The resulting structures that can be produced are represented in Fig 1 and 2 and can be further visualized in the video above (CC BY 4.0, https://creativecommons.org/
Thereby, several levels of complexity can be achieved to generate 3D structures by combining up to 7 components via the microfluidic flow switch matrices, allowing a precise handling of the fluids and the fine tuning of the liquid flow rates via the OB1 pressure controller as detailed in Fig 3 and 4.
Taken together, these findings suggest a significant role for microfluidics in promoting the generation of 3D structures used for the study of key aspects of numerous research fields, and the need of developing accurate flow control systems and flow switch matrices to support this effort. The use of microfluidics reduces significantly the effort required to fabricate multi-material 3D microstructures.
If you’re interested in reproducing what Frederik Mayer has achieved in his work, do not hesitate contacting our team of experts for additional information about the OB1 pressure-driven flow controller for fine control of the flow rate and the MUX flow switch matrice for fast handling of your fluids!
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REFERENCES TO 3D MULTICOMPONENT LASER PRINTING
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 Y. Hu, B. T. Miles, Y.-L. D. Ho, M. P. C. Taverne, L. Chen, H. Gersen, J. G. Rarity, C. F. J. Faul, Toward direct laser writing of actively tuneable 3D photonic crystals. Adv. Opt. Mater. 5, 1600458 (2017).
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 T. Frenzel, M. Kadic, M. Wegener, Three-dimensional mechanical metamaterials with a twist. Science 358, 1072–1074 (2017).
 F. Klein, T. Striebel, J. Fischer, Z. Jiang, C. M. Franz, G. von Freymann, M. Wegener, M. Bastmeyer, Elastic fully three-dimensional microstructure scaffolds for cell force measurements. Adv. Mater. 22, 868–871 (2010).
V. Melissinaki, A. A. Gill, I. Ortega, M. Vamvakaki, A. Ranella, J. W. Haycock, C. Fotakis, M. Farsari, F. Claeyssens, Direct laser writing of 3D scaffolds for neural tissue engineering applications. Biofabrication 3, 045005 (2011).
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