3D Printing Microparticles

A new method of 3-D printing that allows production of complex micro-scale objects bioengineers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

(A 3-D printed microparticle about 500 micrometers in length.)

The authors suggest that producing 3-D shapes at the micro scale could be useful for designing custom biomaterials such as interlocking particles that self-assemble to help tissue regenerate, or for industrial applications such as creating new coatings and paints with unique light-reactive properties.

“We know that shape often determines material function, so while we have a few ideas of what this could lead to, this fundamental capability to produce made-to-order 3-D microparticles could be applied in ways we have not contemplated,” said Dino Di Carlo, the principal investigator on the research and a professor of bioengineering at UCLA. “There are so many potential applications — in that sense, it’s really exciting.”

To make smaller custom objects with folds, holes and other precise features, the UCLA team developed a new technique called optical transient liquid modeling. It uses a series of microfluidic and optical technologies, including a technique previously developed by Di Carlo’s research group that simplifies designing the shape of fluid flows.

Science fiction movie buffs may recall the cool micro-label from Blade Runner, the 1982 movie directed by Ridley Scott (from Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).

In the film, Deckard finds a small object that appears to be a fish scale. A street expert identifies it as artificial - pointing out the micro-sized serial number.

("I think it was manufactured... Finest quality. Superior workmanship..."
Micro label from Blade Runner)


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