Purpose – The objective of this paper is to demonstrate a method for producing embedded horizontal micro‐channels using a commercial line‐scan stereolithography (SL) system. To demonstrate that the method is repeatable, reproducible and capable of producing accurate horizontal micro‐channels, a statistical design of experiments was performed. Design/methodology/approach – Demonstration of the technique was performed using a 3D Systems Viper si2 TM SL system and DSM Somos ® WaterShed TM resin with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)‐coated wire having diameters of 31.6 and 57.2 μ m. By embedding the wire and building around the insert, the down‐facing surfaces were supported during fabrication enabling accurate fabrication of embedded micro‐channel geometries. The fabrication method involved first building an open micro‐channel, interrupting the SL process and inserting the wire, and then capping over the wire with multiple layers. After fabrication, the part with the inserted micro‐wire was post‐cured to harden any uncured resin around the wire. The micro‐channel was produced by simply pulling the wire out of the part. Scanning electron microscope images were used to examine and measure the geometries of the fabricated micro‐channels, and characterization through a statistical analysis was accomplished to show that the process was capable of producing accurate horizontal micro‐channels. Findings – The measured data showed that the micro‐wires were successfully removed from the channels, leaving high quality micro‐channels, where the mean measured diameters for each wire were 2.65 and 2.18 μ m smaller than the measured wire diameters (31.6 and 57.2 μ m). Based on the statistical results, it is suggested that the method described in this work can rapidly produce repeatable and reproducible circular, embedded, and accurate micro‐channels. Research limitations/implications – The method developed in the current work was demonstrated on simple straight channels and a statistical study was used to show that the process is capable of repeatedly and reproducibly producing accurate micro‐channels with circular cross‐section; however, future studies are required to extend these procedures to more realistic and complicated geometries that may include non‐straight channel paths and non‐circular cross‐sectional geometries. The process can be used for micro‐channel fabrication with not only circular cross‐sectional geometries as shown here but potentially with a wide range of additional cross‐sectional geometries that can be fabricated into a PTFE‐coated micro‐wire. Originality/value – This work demonstrates a process using commercial line‐scan SL and embedding a PTFE‐coated micro‐wire that is subsequently removed for producing repeatable and reproducible horizontal embedded micro‐channels of circular cross‐sectional geometries.
Rapid Prototyping Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 2, 2011
Keywords: Micro‐channels; Stereolithography; Embedded wire; Manufacturing systems; Wires