3D printing self-supporting microfluidic structures
The human body is a maze of pipes – carrying blood and water, along with important chemicals, to and from cells and tissues. Outside the body, researchers use microfluidic devices to mimic currents in our biological plumbing, aiming to see how cells react and respond when different chemicals pass by. But here they’re going a few steps further, 3D printing microfluidic tubes from a rubbery silicone a bit like piping out icing – although 100 times smaller than a cupcake topping – carefully building up the sides of 3D vessels and chambers. The finished self-supporting tubes are quicker to fabricate than by common methods in microfluidics and can be shaped onto curved surfaces, raising hopes of one day printing microfluidic devices directly onto skin, as sensors to monitor bodily fluids.
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