A dimensional comparison between embedded 3D-printed and silicon microchannels

  • Jeffers N.
  • O'Connor J.
  • Punch J.
  • Stafford J.

The subject of this paper is the dimensional characterization of embedded mi- crochannel arrays created using contemporary 3D-printing fabrication techniques. Conven- tional microchannel arrays, fabricated using deep reactive ion etching techniques (DRIE) and wet-etching (KOH), are used as a benchmark for comparison. Rectangular and trapezoidal cross-sectional shapes were investigated. The channel arrays were 3D-printed in vertical and horizontal directions, to examine the influence of print orientation on channel characteristics. The 3D-printed channels were benchmarked against Silicon channels in terms of the following dimensional characteristics: cross-sectional area (CSA), perimeter, and surface profiles. The 3D-printed microchannel arrays demonstrated variances in CSA of 6.6-20 % with the vertical printing approach yielding greater dimensional conformity than the horizontal approach. The measured CSA and perimeter of the vertical channels were smaller than the nominal dimen- sions, while the horizontal channels were larger in both CSA and perimeter due to additional side-wall roughness present throughout the channel length. This side-wall roughness caused significant shape distortion. Surface profile measurements revealed that the base wall roughness was approximately the resolution of current 3D-printers. A spatial periodicity was found along the channel length which appeared at di↵erent frequencies for each channel array. This paper concludes that vertical 3D-printing is superior to the horizontal printing approach, in terms of both dimensional fidelity and shape conformity and can be applied in microfluidic device applications.

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