Embedded micro‐channel fabrication using line‐scan stereolithography

Ryan B. Wicker (University of Texas, EL Paso, Texas, USA)
Atul V. Ranade (University of Texas, EL Paso, Texas, USA)
Francisco Medina (University of Texas, EL Paso, Texas, USA)
Jeremy A. Palmer (Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Publication date: 1 December 2005

Abstract

Purpose

In an effort to directly manufacture devices with embedded complex and three‐dimensional (3D) micro‐channels on the order of microns to millimeters, issues associated with micro‐fabrication using current commercially available line‐scan stereolithography (SL) technology were investigated.

Design/methodology/approach

Practical issues associated with the successful fabrication of embedded micro‐channels were divided into software part preparation, part manufacture, and post‐cleaning with emphasis on channel geometry, size, and orientation for successful micro‐fabrication. Accurate representation of intended geometries was investigated during conversion from CAD to STL and STL to machine build file, and fabricated vertical and horizontal micro‐channels were inspected. Additional build issues investigated included accurate spatial registration of the build platform, building without base support, and Z‐stage position accuracy during the build.

Findings

For successful fabrication of micro‐channels using current technology, it is imperative to inspect the conversion process from CAD to STL and STL to machine build file. Inaccuracies in micro‐channel representation can arise at different stages of part preparation, although newer software versions appear to improve representation of micro‐geometries. Square channel cross‐sections are most easily sliced and vertical channels are most easily stacked together for layered manufacturing. While building, a means should be developed for building without base and internal supports, providing feedback on Z‐stage position, and having the capability for cleaning the micro‐channels.

Research limitations/implications

This research demonstrates that commercial SL technology is capable of accurately fabricating embedded vertical square cross‐section micro‐channels on the order of 100 μm (with reasonable advancements to smaller scales on the order of 10 μm achievable). Additional practical limitations exist on other channel geometries and orientations. The research used a single resin and additional material resins should be explored for improved micro‐fabrication characteristics.

Practical implications

Practical issues associated with micro‐fabrication of embedded channels with appropriate solutions using available SL technology were provided. It is expected that these solutions will enable unique applications of micro‐channel fabrication for micro‐fluidic and other devices.

Originality/value

This work represents an original investigation of the capabilities of current line‐scan SL technology for fabricating embedded micro‐channels, and the solutions provide the means for applying this technology in micro‐fabrication.

Keywords

Citation

Wicker, R., Ranade, A., Medina, F. and Palmer, J. (2005), "Embedded micro‐channel fabrication using line‐scan stereolithography", Assembly Automation, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 316-329. https://doi.org/10.1108/01445150510626460

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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