Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Engineering

Department

Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Christine Ann Trinkle

Second Advisor

Dr. Lyndon Scott Stephens

Abstract

Micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) technology has had an increasing impact on industry and our society. A wide range of MEMS devices are used in every aspects of our life, from microaccelerators and microgyroscopes to microscale drug-delivery systems. The increasing complexity of microsystems demands diverse microfabrication methods and actuation strategies to realize. Currently, it is challenging for existing microfabrication methods—particularly 3D microfabrication methods—to integrate multiple materials into the same component. This is a particular challenge for some applications, such as microrobotics and microfluidics, where integration of magnetically-responsive materials would be beneficial, because it enables contact-free actuation. In addition, most existing microfabrication methods can only fabricate flat, layered geometries; the few that can fabricate real 3D microstructures are not cost efficient and cannot realize mass production.

This dissertation explores two solutions to these microfabrication problems: first, a method for integrating magnetically responsive regions into microstructures using photolithography, and second, a method for creating three-dimensional freestanding microstructures using a modified micromolding technique. The first method is a facile method of producing inexpensive freestanding photopatternable polymer micromagnets composed NdFeB microparticles dispersed in SU-8 photoresist. The microfabrication process is capable of fabricating polymer micromagnets with 3 µm feature resolution and greater than 10:1 aspect ratio. This method was used to demonstrate the creation of freestanding microrobots with an encapsulated magnetic core. A magnetic control system was developed and the magnetic microrobots were moved along a desired path at an average speed of 1.7 mm/s in a fluid environment under the presence of external magnetic field. A microfabrication process using aligned mask micromolding and soft lithography was also developed for creating freestanding microstructures with true 3D geometry. Characterization of this method and resolution limits were demonstrated. The combination of these two microfabrication methods has great potential for integrating several material types into one microstructure for a variety of applications.

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