Issue 9, 2024

Direct laser writing-enabled 3D printing strategies for microfluidic applications


Over the past decade, additive manufacturing—or “three-dimensional (3D) printing”—has attracted increasing attention in the Lab on a Chip community as a pathway to achieve sophisticated system architectures that are difficult or infeasible to fabricate via conventional means. One particularly promising 3D manufacturing technology is “direct laser writing (DLW)”, which leverages two-photon (or multi-photon) polymerization (2PP) phenomena to enable high geometric versatility, print speeds, and precision at length scales down to the 100 nm range. Although researchers have demonstrated the potential of using DLW for microfluidic applications ranging from organ on a chip and drug delivery to micro/nanoparticle processing and soft microrobotics, such scenarios present unique challenges for DLW. Specifically, microfluidic systems typically require macro-to-micro fluidic interfaces (e.g., inlet and outlet ports) to facilitate fluidic loading, control, and retrieval operations; however, DLW-based 3D printing relies on a micron-to-submicron-sized 2PP volume element (i.e., “voxel”) that is poorly suited for manufacturing these larger-scale fluidic interfaces. In this Tutorial Review, we highlight and discuss the four most prominent strategies that researchers have developed to circumvent this trade-off and realize macro-to-micro interfaces for DLW-enabled microfluidic components and systems. In addition, we consider the possibility that—with the advent of next-generation commercial DLW printers equipped with new dynamic voxel tuning, print field, and laser power capabilities—the overall utility of DLW strategies for Lab on a Chip fields may soon expand dramatically.

Graphical abstract: Direct laser writing-enabled 3D printing strategies for microfluidic applications

Associated articles

Article information

Article type
Tutorial Review
01 Sep 2023
27 Mar 2024
First published
04 Apr 2024
This article is Open Access
Creative Commons BY license

Lab Chip, 2024,24, 2371-2396

Direct laser writing-enabled 3D printing strategies for microfluidic applications

O. M. Young, X. Xu, S. Sarker and R. D. Sochol, Lab Chip, 2024, 24, 2371 DOI: 10.1039/D3LC00743J

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported Licence. You can use material from this article in other publications without requesting further permissions from the RSC, provided that the correct acknowledgement is given.

Read more about how to correctly acknowledge RSC content.

Social activity