Low-Cost Microfabrication Tool Box

Micromachines (Basel). 2020 Jan 25;11(2):135. doi: 10.3390/mi11020135.


Microsystems are key enabling technologies, with applications found in almost every industrial field, including in vitro diagnostic, energy harvesting, automotive, telecommunication, drug screening, etc. Microsystems, such as microsensors and actuators, are typically made up of components below 1000 microns in size that can be manufactured at low unit cost through mass-production. Yet, their development for commercial or educational purposes has typically been limited to specialized laboratories in upper-income countries due to the initial investment costs associated with the microfabrication equipment and processes. However, recent technological advances have enabled the development of low-cost microfabrication tools. In this paper, we describe a range of low-cost approaches and equipment (below £1000), developed or adapted and implemented in our laboratories. We describe processes including photolithography, micromilling, 3D printing, xurography and screen-printing used for the microfabrication of structural and functional materials. The processes that can be used to shape a range of materials with sub-millimetre feature sizes are demonstrated here in the context of lab-on-chips, but they can be adapted for other applications. We anticipate that this paper, which will enable researchers to build a low-cost microfabrication toolbox in a wide range of settings, will spark a new interest in microsystems.

Keywords: lab-on-chip; low-cost; manufacturing; microfabrication; microsystem; scaling laws.