Farré-Lladós, Josep, Casals-Terré, Jasmina, Voltas, Jordi, Westerberg, Lars-Göran, and Luleå tekniska universitet, Institutionen för teknikvetenskap och matematik, Strömningslära och experimentell mekanik
Rapid prototyping journal. 22(1):67-76
Engineering and Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics, Teknik och teknologier, Maskinteknik, Strömningsmekanik och akustik, Strömningslära, and Fluid Mechanics
Purpose– This paper aims to present a new methodology to manufacture micro-channels suitable for high operating pressures and micro particle image velocimetry (μPIV) measurements using a rapid-prototyping high-resolution 3D printer. This methodology can fabricate channels down to 250 μm and withstand pressures of up to 5 ± 0.2 MPa. The manufacturing times are much shorter than in soft lithography processes. Design/methodology/approach– The novel manufacturing method developed takes advantage of the recently improved resolution in 3D printers to manufacture an rapid prototyping technique part that contains the hose connections and a micro-channel useful for microfluidics. A method to assemble one wall of the micro-channel using UV curable glue with a glass slide is presented – an operation required to prepare the channel for μPIV measurements. Once built, the micro-channel has been evaluated when working under pressure and the grease flow behavior in it has been measured using μPIV. Furthermore, the minimum achievable channels have been defined using a confocal microscopy study. Findings– This technique is much faster than previous micro-manufacturing techniques where different steps were needed to obtain the micro-machined parts. However, due to current 3D printers ' resolutions (around 50 μm) and according to the experimental results, channels smaller than 250-μm2 cross-section should not be used to characterize fluid flow behaviors, as inaccuracies in the channel boundaries can deeply affect the fluid flow behavior. Practical implications– The present methodology is developed due to the need to validate micro-channels using μPIV to lubricate critical components (bearings and gears) in wind turbines. Originality/value– This novel micro-manufacturing technique overcomes current techniques, as it requires less manufacturing steps and therefore it is faster and with less associated costs to manufacture micro-channels down to 250-μm2 cross-section that can withstand pressures higher than 5 MPa that can be used to characterize microfluidic flow behavior using μPIV.