Choi, J., Yamashita, M., Sakakibara, J. et al. Biomed Microdevices (2010) 12: 875. doi:10.1007/s10544-010-9442-1
Microstereolithography (µSL) technology can fabricate complex, three-dimensional (3D) microstructures, although µSL has difficulty producing macrostructures with micro-scale features. There are potentially many applications where 3D micro-features can benefit the overall function of the macrostructure. One such application involves a medical device called a coaxial phacoemulsifier where the tip of the phacoemulsifier is inserted into the eye through a relatively small incision and used to break the lens apart while removing the lens pieces and associated fluid from the eye through a small tube. In order to maintain the eye at a constant pressure, the phacoemulsifier also includes an irrigation solution that is injected into the eye during the procedure through a coaxial sleeve. It has been reported, however, that the impinging flow from the irrigation solution on the corneal endothelial cells in the inner eye can damage these cells during the procedure. As a result, a method for reducing the impinging flow velocities and the resulting shear stresses on the endothelial cells during this procedure was explored, including the design and development of a complex, 3D micro-vane within the sleeve. The micro-vane introduces swirl into the irrigation solution, producing a flow with rapidly dissipating flow velocities. Fabrication of the sleeve and fitting could not be accomplished using µSL alone, and thus, a two-part design was accomplished where a sleeve with the micro-vane was fabricated with µSL and a threaded fitting used to attach the sleeve to the phacoemulsifier was fabricated using an Objet Eden 333 rapid prototyping machine. The new combined device was tested within a water container using particle image velocimetry, and the results showed successful swirling flow with an ejection of the irrigation fluid through the micro-vane in three different radial directions corresponding to the three micro-vanes. As expected, the sleeve produced a swirling flow with rapidly dissipating streamwise flow velocities where the maximum measured streamwise flow velocities using the micro-vane were lower than those without the micro-vane by 2 mm from the tip where they remained at ∼70% of those produced by the conventional sleeve as the flow continued to develop. It is believed that this new device will reduce damage to endothelial cells during cataract surgery and significantly improve patient outcomes from this procedure. This unique application demonstrates the utility of combining µSL with a macro rapid prototyping technology for fabricating a real macro-scale device with functional, 3D micro-scale features that would be difficult and costly to fabricate using alternative manufacturing methods.