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Technical Brief

Comparison of Microscale Rapid Prototyping Techniques

[+] Author and Article Information
Gordon D. Hoople

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of California, Berkeley,
Berkeley, CA 94720
e-mail: ghoople@berkeley.edu

David A. Rolfe, Joanna R. Noble

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of California, Berkeley,
Berkeley, CA 94720

Katherine C. McKinstry

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of California,
Berkeley, CA 94720

David A. Dornfeld

Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Will C. Hall Family Professor of Engineering,
University of California, Berkeley,
Berkeley, CA 94720

Albert P. Pisano

Dean
Jacobs School of Engineering,
Distinguished Professor, MAE and ECE,
Walter J. Zable Endowed Chair of Engineering,
University of California, San Diego,
La Jolla, CA 92093

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Manufacturing Engineering Division of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MICRO- AND NANO-MANUFACTURING. Manuscript received March 31, 2014; final manuscript received June 2, 2014; published online July 8, 2014. Assoc. Editor: Hongqiang Chen.

J. Micro Nano-Manuf 2(3), 034502 (Jul 08, 2014) (6 pages) Paper No: JMNM-14-1018; doi: 10.1115/1.4027810 History: Received March 31, 2014; Revised June 02, 2014

Recent advances in manufacturing techniques have opened up new interest in rapid prototyping at the microscale. Traditionally microscale devices are fabricated using photolithography, however this process can be time consuming, challenging, and expensive. This paper focuses on three promising rapid prototyping techniques: laser ablation, micromilling, and 3D printing. Emphasis is given to rapid prototyping tools that are commercially available to the research community rather those only used in manufacturing research. Due to the interest in rapid prototyping within the microfluidics community a test part was designed with microfluidic features. This test part was then manufactured using the three different rapid prototyping methods. Accuracy of the features and surface roughness were measured using a surface profilometer, scanning electron microscope (SEM), and optical microscope. Micromilling was found to produce the most accurate features and best surface finish down to ∼100 μm, however it did not achieve the small feature sizes produced by laser ablation. The 3D printed part, though easily manufactured, did not achieve feature sizes small enough for most microfluidic applications. Laser ablation created somewhat rough and erratic channels, however the process was faster and achieved features smaller than either of the other two methods.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

A model of the sample part used to test the three fabrication methods

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Fig. 2

Dimensions for the test part. Top view (left) and sectional views (right). Dimensions in millimeters.

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Fig. 3

The three finished parts, coated in gold for use with a SEM

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Fig. 4

A comparison of cross-sectional profiles made with three different manufacturing techniques

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Fig. 5

A schematic of the methodology for measuring the minimum and maximum peg diameters for the results shown in Fig. 6

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Fig. 6

A plot of a variety of pegs produced by each fabrication method compared to the nominal value for each peg (shown with a dotted line). The error bars show the minimum and maximum diameters for each peg using the methodology shown in Fig. 5.

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Fig. 7

SEM images of parts manufactured 3 different ways. Note the rounded and poorly defined features in 3D printing, the scalloping produced by laser ablation, and the vertical sidewalls from micromilling. The channel is nominally 400 μm across, while the pegs are nominally 500 μm in diameter.

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Fig. 8

A holistic comparison of the three manufacturing tools reviewed in this paper. Further out from the center indicates a more favorable ranking.

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