High-precision robotic microcontact printing (R-μCP) utilizing a vision guided selectively compliant articulated robotic arm†
Increased realization of the spatial heterogeneity found within in vivo tissue microenvironments has prompted the desire to engineer similar complexities into in vitro culture substrates. Microcontact printing (μCP) is a versatile technique for engineering such complexities onto cell culture substrates because it permits microscale control of the relative positioning of molecules and cells over large surface areas. However, challenges associated with precisely aligning and superimposing multiple μCP steps severely limits the extent of substrate modification that can be achieved using this method. Thus, we investigated the feasibility of using a vision guided selectively compliant articulated robotic arm (SCARA) for μCP applications. SCARAs are routinely used to perform high precision, repetitive tasks in manufacturing, and even low-end models are capable of achieving microscale precision. Here, we present customization of a SCARA to execute robotic-μCP (R-μCP) onto gold-coated microscope coverslips. The system not only possesses the ability to align multiple polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) stamps but also has the capability to do so even after the substrates have been removed, reacted to graft polymer brushes, and replaced back into the system. Plus, non-biased computerized analysis shows that the system performs such sequential patterning with <10 μm precision and accuracy, which is equivalent to the repeatability specifications of the employed SCARA model. R-μCP should facilitate the engineering of complex in vivo-like complexities onto culture substrates and their integration with microfluidic devices.