Fabrication of unconventional inertial microfluidic channels using wax 3D printing†
Inertial microfluidics has emerged over the past decade as a powerful tool to accurately control cells and microparticles for diverse biological and medical applications. Many approaches have been proposed to date in order to increase the efficiency and accuracy of inertial microfluidic systems. However, the effects of channel cross-section and solution properties (Newtonian or non-Newtonian) have not been fully explored, primarily due to limitations in current microfabrication methods. In this study, we overcome many of these limitations using wax 3D printing technology and soft lithography through a novel workflow, which eliminates the need for the use of silicon lithography and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) bonding. We have shown that by adding dummy structures to reinforce the main channels, optimizing the gap between the dummy and main structures, and dissolving the support wax on a PDMS slab to minimize the additional handling steps, one can make various non-conventional microchannels. These substantially improve upon previous wax printed microfluidic devices where the working area falls into the realm of macrofluidics rather than microfluidics. Results revealed a surface roughness of 1.75 μm for the printed channels, which does not affect the performance of inertial microfluidic devices used in this study. Channels with complex cross-sections were fabricated and then analyzed to investigate the effects of viscoelasticity and superposition on the lateral migration of the particles. Finally, as a proof of concept, microcarriers were separated from human mesenchymal stem cells using an optimized channel with maximum cell-holding capacity, demonstrating the suitability of these microchannels in the bioprocessing industry.