High-throughput microstructure printing technology using inflatable thin membrane with microchannel
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Low-cost manufacturing technology for a micro-sized structure is receiving a lot of attention as human society is getting mixed with sensors and electronics. A template printing technology which forms micro-patterns by letting ink dried within a solvent permeable template is an attractive alternative of traditional costly micro-fabrication. However, low printing speed and lack of scalability have been recognized as a major drawback of this method. Here, we propose a novel printing machine using an inflatable polymer template. It is expected that thin membrane improves the printing speed due to its high permeation speed; however, the theoretical prediction and experimental proof of this approach has not been studied. A 450-μm thick membrane is fabricated by the casting polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) on a silicon master mold, fixed to a printer head, and inflated to contact with substrate uniformly. The permeation mechanism is investigated by using both of the numerical simulation and experiments and discovers that the diffusion in thin membrane obeys an analytical solution for Fick’s diffusion in steady state, while a conventional bulk template (10 mm) is in non-steady state. The printing system composed of pneumatic lines, a flash sintering unit, and a printer head holds the membrane is prototyped to ensure reproducibility of this novel method, five times faster printing speed compared to the ordinal method is confirmed.
KeywordsTemplate printing Micro-3D printing Microfluidics Soft lithography
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