[Langmuir]Dynamics of Capillary-Driven Flow in 3D Printed Open Microchannels
Microchannels have applications in microfluidic devices, patterns for micromolding, and even flexible electronic devices. Three-dimensional (3D) printing presents a promising alternative manufacturing route for these microchannels due to the technology’s relative speed and the design freedom it affords its users. However, the roughness of 3D printed surfaces can significantly influence flow dynamics inside of a microchannel. In this work, open microchannels are fabricated using four different 3D printing techniques: fused deposition modeling (FDM), stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering, and multijet modeling. Microchannels printed with each technology are evaluated with respect to their surface roughness, morphology, and how conducive they are to spontaneous capillary filling. Based on this initial assessment, microchannels printed with FDM and SLA are chosen as models to study spontaneous, capillary-driven flow dynamics in 3D printed microchannels. Flow dynamics are investigated over short (~10–3 s), intermediate (~1 s), and long (~102 s) timescales. Surface roughness is shown to reduce flow velocity compared to that in smooth channels and cause a start-stop motion due to contact line pinning. A significant delay in the onset of Lucas-Washburn dynamics (a long-time equilibrium state where meniscus position advances proportionally to the square root of time) is also observed. Flow dynamics are assessed as a function of printing technology, print orientation, channel dimensions, and liquid properties. This study provides the first in-depth investigation of the effect of 3D printing on microchannel flow dynamics as well as a set of rules on how to account for these effects in practice. The extension of these effects to closed microchannels and microchannels fabricated with other 3D printing technologies is also discussed.
Robert Kevin Lade, Erik J. Hippchen, Christopher W. Macosko, and Lorraine F. Francis
Langmuir, Just Accepted Manuscript