Air Force

Device for manufacturing spiral micro structures

Hollow fiber wound around a mandrel to create micro-sized coiled structures having applications in MEMS and microfluidics


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Structures such as the above are constructed easily on the macro scale but are very difficult to produce at the micro level.

The vast majority of micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) are made almost exclusively on flat surfaces using technology developed to fabricate integrated circuits. That is, the fabrication of these devices takes place on a wafer and the device is formed layer-by-layer with standard clean-room techniques that include e-beam or photolithography, thin-film deposition, and wet or dry etching.

There are limitations inherently associated with these conventional lithographic techniques that are based on planar silicon. For example, in some applications such as those that involve surface tension in fluidics, it is important to have a circular cross-section. However, it is impossible to make a perfectly round tube or channel on a chip with current technology. Instead, channels are made by etching a trench and then covering the trench with a plate. This process can only produce angled channels such as those with a square, rectangular, or triangular cross-section.

For making MEMS components with complex geometries – specifically, mandrel shapes and channels for use in microfluidics, micro-springs, and micro-bellows, Air Force researchers have developed a new apparatus and production method. The system includes a precision controlled, adjustable torque, micro-winder, mandrel, and appropriate fiber materials.

The polyetherimide fiber is drawn through the micro-winder and wound around a core. The winding can be used to strengthen a core component or the winding can be separated from the core as a stand-alone component.

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