Mitigation and control of the overcuring effect in mask projection micro-stereolithography
O'Neill, Paul and Kent, Nigel J. and Brabazon, Dermot (2017) Mitigation and control of the overcuring effect in mask projection micro-stereolithography. In: 20th International ESAFORM Conference on Material Forming, 26-28 Apr 2017, Dublin, Ireland. ISBN 9780735415805
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Mask Projection micro-Stereolithography (MPμSL) is an additive manufacturing technique capable of producing solid parts with micron-scale resolution from a vat of photocurable liquid polymer resin. Although the physical mechanism remains the same, the process differs from traditional laser-galvanometer based stereolithography (SL) in its use of a dynamic mask UV projector, or digital light processor (DLP), which cures each location within each 3D layer at the same time. One area where MPµSL has garnered considerable attention is in the field of microfluidics and Lab-on-a-Chip, where complex multistep microfabrication techniques adopted from the semiconductor industry are still widely used, and where MPµSL offers the ability to fabricate completely encapsulated fluidic channels in a single step and at low cost [1–3]. However, a significant obstacle exists in the prevention of channel blockage due to overcuring of the polymer resin [4, 5]. Overcuring can be attributed to the so-called ‘back side effect’  which occurs during the build process as light from successive layers penetrates into the resin to a depth greater than the layer thickness. This effect is most prevalent in channels or features oriented horizontally (in a parallel plane to that of the build platform). Currently there are two main approaches in controlling the cure depth; 1. the chemical approach, which involves doping the resin material with a chemical light absorber [6–8]; and 2. by improving the system's hardware and optical elements to improve the homogeneity of the light dosage and control the cure depth . Here we investigate a third approach through modification of the 3D CAD file prior to printing to mitigate for UV light leakage from successive build layers. Although used here in conjunction with the MPμSL technique, this approach can be applied to a range of SL techniques to improve printer resolution and enable production of internal features with higher dimensional accuracy.
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