Additive Manufacturing in Microfluidics: New Perspective by New Materials
Microfluidics is a very important discipline for many disciplines including, among others, synthetic and analytical chemistry, biochemistry and biology. However, the design of most microfluidic systems has remained largely unchanged since the introduction of soft lithography. In academia, microfluidic systems made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) have become the de-facto standard. These are usually created in a replication process from a photolithographically structured layer of photoresist.
However, in many applications fast concept-to-chip intervals are required for efficient experimental throughput and optimization. This is where 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) can make a significant contribution. We recently introduced “Computer Aided Microfluidics (CAMF)” a process that allows the conversion of digital chip layout to a testable physical structure in less than a day . Using digital models allows a streamlined manufacturing process with digital models first being evaluated by numerical simulation before being transferred to a physical structure in a one-step manufacturing process. We recently expanded the material choice for CAMF to include glass  (which is created by sintering from photocurable glass prepolymers) and thermoplasts, most notably polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) for which we created photostructurable precursors. This allows the rapid manufacturing of microfluidic systems in materials which have a long history in microfluidics and have been thoroughly investigated.
We will demonstrate the advantages of this prototyping method and its potential use in many aspects of life sciences and analytics.
Bastian E. Rapp studied mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe and finished his PhD at the same university in 2008 working on biosensors for biomedical diagnostics. He is a Principal Investigator and head of NeptunLab at the Institute of Microstructure Technology (IMT) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. His research focuses on the development of microfluidic analytical systems and instrumentation for biomedical applications and biotechnology. For his work he was awarded, among others, the Edison Award of the General Electric (GE) Foundation, the REHAU award and the Südwestmetallförderpreis. His work has been published in the most important international journals and featured in national and international radio and print media. His academic work is published in the most important international journals of the community including Lab-on-a-Chip, Advanced Materials, Angewandte Chemie and Nature