Recent developments in microfluidics have opened up new interest in rapid prototyping with features on the microscale. Microfluidic devices are traditionally fabricated using photolithography, however this process can be time consuming and challenging. Laser ablation has emerged as the preferred solution for rapid prototyping of these devices. This paper explores the state of rapid prototyping for microfluidic devices by comparing laser ablation to micromilling and 3D printing. A microfluidic sample part was fabricated using these three methods. Accuracy of the features and surface roughness were measured using a surface profilometer, scanning electron microscope, and optical microscope. Micromilling was found to produce the most accurate features and best surface finish down to ∼100 μm, however it did not achieve the small feature sizes produced by laser ablation. 3D printed parts, though easily manufactured, were inadequate for most microfluidics applications. While laser ablation created somewhat rough and erratic channels, the process was within typical dimensions for microfluidic channels and should remain the default for microfluidic rapid prototyping.

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