Miniaturized vacuum pumps are used in a variety of compact systems including mass spectrometers, analytical sensors and in prototyping of miniature roughing pump applications.
Various microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) use a supply of gases at precise flow rates and pressure levels to maintain a vacuum or to compress pockets of gas at low pressure. Currently, there are no microfabricated pumps that can deliver significant flow rates and vacuum levels. Traditional, i.e., cleanroom, microfabrication results in a number of complications including a high dead-to-total volume ratio, large hydraulic resistance, slow actuator pace, and significant valve leak rates. These issues lead to pressure drops in the pumps that negatively impact their performance and limit the vacuum generation capabilities of the pumps. Cleanroom microfabrication is also expensive and time-consuming, which makes them incompatible with low-cost applications. Through 3D printing, devices with the right geometries and materials can be monolithically created, resulting in high-performance devices.
Multi-material miniaturized diaphragm pumps provide improved performance and longevity previously unseen in an additively manufactured pump. The pumps have a series of valves and a compression chamber with several different stiffness values. The valves are made of a softer, flexible material and the pump compression chambers are made of a harder, flexible material. This change in rigidity greatly increases the device lifetime. The pump valves and chambers are pneumatically actuated, but they can also be actuated using embedded (printed or non-printed) magnets. 3D printing could require support or sacrificial material that must be removed from the final product. A disposable support pump provides a full removal of the sacrificial material without damaging the pump. This support pump can also clean the main pump, and clean the complex microfluidics.
- Multi-staged pumps greatly decrease the base pressure, also yielding increased power efficiency
- Bowed compression chamber sidewalls minimize dead volume, increasing power efficiency and decreasing manufacturing costs
- 3D printing process lowers manufacturing cost and enables portability and autonomous systems