Flexible inserts for injection molding of complex micro-structured polymer components

Hamilton, A., Perris, J., Convery, N., Mulvihill, D. M. and Gadegaard, N. (2021) Flexible inserts for injection molding of complex micro-structured polymer components. Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, 306(9), 2100223. (doi: 10.1002/mame.202100223)

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Mass production of microfluidic devices commonly relies on injection molding. Injection molding requires a master surface made using micro or nanofabrication. Conventionally, electroplating from a silicon master is used for mold insert production, but this is expensive and cannot be used with masters produced via the Bosch process as interlocking of the scalloping between polymer and metal insert hinders part ejection. Here, an alternative to the electroplating process is developed by adapting a nanoimprint route to produce flexible micro-structured polymer inserts capable of molding using a Bosch process-produced master. An optimized fabrication approach using silicon masters with smooth sidewalls (produced using the mixed process) is used to characterize the limits of the process. Aspect ratios of 1 and below are successfully replicated. Feature spacings down to 20 µm are successfully produced with minimal variation between repeated parts. Masters produced using two different Bosch etches exhibiting both coarse and fine nanometer scalloping are also studied. Parts are successfully ejected with retained nanometer scalloping in all samples although inlay damage occurred after >10 replicas. A proof-of-concept microfluidic device is successfully produced vindicating the use of this approach as an efficient and cost-effective approach for the rapid prototyping of complex micro-structured designs.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hamilton, Mr Alexander and Perris, Mr Jack and Convery, Mr Neil and Mulvihill, Dr Daniel and Gadegaard, Professor Nikolaj
Authors: Hamilton, A., Perris, J., Convery, N., Mulvihill, D. M., and Gadegaard, N.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Biomedical Engineering
College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Systems Power and Energy
Journal Name:Macromolecular Materials and Engineering
ISSN (Online):1439-2054
Published Online:12 June 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Macromolecular Materials and Engineering 306(9): 2100223
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172865EPSRC DTP 16/17 and 17/18Tania GalabovaEngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)EP/N509668/1Research and Innovation Services
172025FAKIR: Focal Adhesion Kinetics In nanosurface RecognitionNikolaj GadegaardEuropean Research Council (ERC)648892ENG - Biomedical Engineering
302858Fundamental Mechanical Behaviour of Nano and Micro Structured InterfacesDaniel MulvihillLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)RPG-2017-353ENG - Systems Power & Energy