This dissertation focuses on developing 3D printing as a fabrication method for microfluidic devices. Specifically, I concentrate on the 3D printing approach known as Digital Light Processing stereolithography (DLP-SLA) in which serially projected images are used to sequentially photopolymerize layers to build a microfluidic device. The motivation for this work is to explore a much faster alternative to cleanroom-based microfabrication that additionally offers the opportunity to densely integrate microfluidic elements in compact 3D layouts for dramatic device volume reduction. In the course of my research, an optical approach was used to guide custom resin formulation to help create the interconnected hollow regions that form a microfluidic device. This was based on a new a mathematical model to calculate the optical dose delivered throughout a 3D printed part, which also explains the effect of voids. The model was verified by a series of 3D printed chips fabricated with a commercial 3D printer and a custom resin. Channels as small as 108 µm x 60 µm were repeatably fabricated. Next, highly compact active fluidic components, including valves, pumps, and multiplexers, were fabricated with the same 3D printer and resin. The valves achieved a 10x size reduction compared with previous results, and were the smallest 3D printed valves at the time. Moreover, by adding thermal initiator to thermally cure devices after 3D printing, the durability of 3D printed valves was improved and up to 1 million actuations were demonstrated.To further decrease the 3D printed feature size, I built a custom 3D printer with a 385 nm LED light source and a 7.56 µm pixel pitch in the plane of the projected image. A custom resin was also developed to take advantage of the new 3D printer's features, which necessitated developing a UV absorber screening process which I applied to 20 candidate absorbers. In addition, a new mathematical model was developed to use only the absorber's molar absorptivity measurement to predict the resin optical penetration depth, which is important for determining the z-resolution that can be achieved with a given resin. The final resin formulation uses 2-nitrophenyl phenyl sulfide (NPS) as the UV absorber. With this resin, along with a new channel narrowing technique, I successfully created flow channel cross sections as small as 18 µm x 20 µm.With the custom 3D printer, smaller valves and pumps become possible, which led to the invention of a new method of creating large numbers of high density chip-to-chip microfluidic interconnects based on either simple integrated microgaskets (SIMs) or controlled-compression integrated microgaskets (CCIMs). Since these structures are directly 3D printed as part of a device, they require no additional materials or fabrication steps. As a demonstration of the efficacy of this approach, 121 chip-to-chip interconnects in an 11 x 11 array for both SIMs and CCIMs with an areal density of 53 interconnects per square mm were demonstrated, and tested up to 50 psi without leaking. Finally, these interconnects were used in the development of 3D printed chips with valves having 30x smaller volume than the valves we previously demonstrated. These valves served as a building block for demonstrating the miniaturization potential of an active fluid mixer using our 3D printing tools, materials, and methods. The mixer provided a set of selectable mixing ratios, and was designed in 2 configurations, a linear dilution mixer-pump (LDMP) and a parallelized dilution mixer-pump (PDMP), which occupy volumes of only 1.5 cubic mm and 2.6 cubic mm, respectively.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Electrical and Computer Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type



3D printing, microfluidics, digital light processing, stereolithography, lab on a chip, resin formulation, valve, pump, mixer, interconnect



Included in

Engineering Commons