A Low-Cost 3-in-1 3D Printer as a Tool for the Fabrication of Flow-Through Channels of Microfluidic Systems

Micromachines (Basel). 2021 Aug 11;12(8):947. doi: 10.3390/mi12080947.


Recently published studies have shown that microfluidic devices fabricated by in-house three-dimensional (3D) printing, computer numerical control (CNC) milling and laser engraving have a good quality of performance. The 3-in-1 3D printers, desktop machines that integrate the three primary functions in a single user-friendly set-up are now available for computer-controlled adaptable surface processing, for less than USD 1000. Here, we demonstrate that 3-in-1 3D printer-based micromachining is an effective strategy for creating microfluidic devices and an easier and more economical alternative to, for instance, conventional photolithography. Our aim was to produce plastic microfluidic chips with engraved microchannel structures or micro-structured plastic molds for casting polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) chips with microchannel imprints. The reproducability and accuracy of fabrication of microfluidic chips with straight, crossed line and Y-shaped microchannel designs were assessed and their microfluidic performance checked by liquid stream tests. All three fabrication methods of the 3-in-1 3D printer produced functional microchannel devices with adequate solution flow. Accordingly, 3-in-1 3D printers are recommended as cheap, accessible and user-friendly tools that can be operated with minimal training and little starting knowledge to successfully fabricate basic microfluidic devices that are suitable for educational work or rapid prototyping.

Keywords: 3-in-1 3D printer; 3D printing; CNC milling; laser engraving; microchannels; microfluidics.