Digital Manufacturing of Functional Ready-to-Use Microfluidic Systems

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Digital manufacturing (DM) strives for the seamless manufacture of a functional device from a digital file. DM holds great potential for microfluidics, but requirements for embedded conduits and high resolution beyond the capability of common manufacturing equipment, and microfluidic systems’ dependence on peripherals (e.g. connections, power supply, computer), have limited its adoption. Microfluidic capillaric circuits (CCs) are structurally-encoded, self-contained microfluidic systems that operate and self-fill thanks to precisely tailored hydrophilicity. CCs were heretofore hydrophilized in a plasma chamber, but which only produces transient hydrophilicity, lacks reproducibility, and limits CC design to open surface channels sealed with a tape. Here we introduce the additive DM of monolithic, fully functional and intrinsically hydrophilic CCs. CCs were 3D printed with commonly available light engine-based 3D printers using polyethylene(glycol)diacrylate-based ink co-polymerized with hydrophilic acrylic acid crosslinkers and optimized for hydrophilicity and printability. A new, robust capillary valve design and embedded conduits with circular cross-sections that prevent bubble trapping are presented, and complex interwoven circuit architectures created, and their use illustrated with an immunoassay. Finally, the need for external paper capillary pumps is eliminated by directly embedding the capillary pump in the chip as a porous gyroid structure, realizing fully functional, monolithic CCs. Thence, a computer-aided design file can be made into a CC by commonly available 3D printers in less than 30 minutes enabling low-cost, distributed, DM of fully functional ready-to-use microfluidic systems.

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