Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 3, 2020
Previous Article Next Article

Layer-by-layer fabrication of 3D hydrogel structures using open microfluidics

Author affiliations


Patterned deposition and 3D fabrication techniques have enabled the use of hydrogels for a number of applications including microfluidics, sensors, separations, and tissue engineering in which form fits function. Devices such as reconfigurable microvalves or implantable tissues have been created using lithography or casting techniques. Here, we present a novel open-microfluidic patterning method that utilizes surface tension forces to form hydrogel layers on top of each other, into a patterned 3D structure. We use a patterning device to form a temporary open microfluidic channel on an existing gel layer, allowing the controlled flow of unpolymerized gel in device-regions. After layer gelation and device removal, the process can be repeated iteratively to create multi-layered 3D structures. The use of open-microfluidic and surface tension-based methods to define the shape of each individual layer enables patterning to be performed with a simple pipette and with minimal dead-volume. Our method is compatible with unmodified (native) biological hydrogels, and other non-biological materials with precursor fluid properties compatible with capillary flow. With our open-microfluidic layer-by-layer fabrication method, we demonstrate the capability to build agarose, type I collagen, and polymer–peptide 3D structures featuring asymmetric designs, multiple components, overhanging features, and cell-laden regions.

Graphical abstract: Layer-by-layer fabrication of 3D hydrogel structures using open microfluidics

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Article information

29 Jun 2019
06 Dec 2019
First published
09 Jan 2020

Lab Chip, 2020,20, 525-536
Article type
Author version available

Layer-by-layer fabrication of 3D hydrogel structures using open microfluidics

U. N. Lee, J. H. Day, A. J. Haack, R. C. Bretherton, W. Lu, C. A. DeForest, A. B. Theberge and E. Berthier, Lab Chip, 2020, 20, 525
DOI: 10.1039/C9LC00621D

Social activity

Search articles by author