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Yong Chen

University of Southern California

Liquid Rolling Printing based on Mesoscale Droplet Manipulation

Most of the additive manufacturing technologies were developed to stack material in a layered manner to form a three-dimensional (3D) shape. For mesoscale objects (from 0.1 mm to a few millimeters), it is challenging to control the deposition of multi-materials to achieve functional 3D printing required by applications such as micro-robots and drug delivery devices. Besides, the additional supports are inevitably required to support features with large inclination angles, and the removal of the supports may cause damage to the small size structure.

In an attempt to overcome the bottlenecks in the mesoscale object fabrication, a novel liquid rolling printing process, inspired by the approach of lathe manufacturing, was developed. Such a process features constructing desired geometry by the direct manipulation of a single mesoscale droplet. In specific, the printable liquid droplet is held by the biomimetic eggbeater shaped grippers developed in our previous work. The profile shape of the liquid droplet can be modulated by controlling the distance and the surface wettability of the bionic grippers. Besides, a laser-based curing system is integrated as the tool to dynamically cure the liquid droplet with microscale features. Therefore, the material geometry manipulation can be achieved using the rotation of a single droplet, as well as other shape-changing operations to outline complex interior and exterior features. A calibration algorithm was introduced to coordinate the rotary movement of the liquid droplet with laser sweeping, and a tool path planning method of the laser beam was put forward for the manufacturing of the desired microstructures. By integrating such dynamic laser beam curing and the direct shape manipulation of the liquid droplet, this liquid rolling printing process can build the curved hollow microstructures without extra support, and produce complex multi-material microcapsules, which are all otherwise impossible.

This liquid rolling printing method, utilizing the bionic wetting structure’s capability of droplet manipulation, demonstrated attractive advantages in terms of support-less fabrication of micro and mesoscale structures with multi-materials and multi-functions. Compared with conventional micro and mesoscale fabrication processes, the developed liquid rolling printing exhibits a new approach to construct 3D structures with greater manipulability of liquid droplet and opens intriguing perspectives for promising applications in the fields of optics, micro-robotic, customized medicine, drug delivery, and tissue engineering.


Dr. Yong Chen is a professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and the Director of Daniel J. Epstein Institute at the University of Southern California (USC). He received his Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2001. Before joining USC in 2006, he was a Senior Research and Development engineer in 3D Systems Inc, the pioneer in the 3D printing industry. Dr. Chen’s research focuses on additive manufacturing (3D printing). He received over ten Best/Outstanding Paper Awards in major design and manufacturing journals and conferences. Other major awards he received include the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award from the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), and the invitations to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers of Engineering Symposiums. Dr. Chen is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). He has served as conference/program chairs as well as keynote speakers in several international conferences. He also serves on the editorial boards of several design and manufacturing journals.


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