The ongoing development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) over the past decades has made possible the achievement of high-precision micromanipulation within the micromanufacturing, microassembly and biomedical fields. This paper presents different design variants of a horizontal electrothermally actuated MEMS microgripper that are developed as
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The ongoing development of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) over the past decades has made possible the achievement of high-precision micromanipulation within the micromanufacturing, microassembly and biomedical fields. This paper presents different design variants of a horizontal electrothermally actuated MEMS microgripper that are developed as microsystems to micromanipulate and study the deformability properties of human red blood cells (RBCs). The presented microgripper design variants are all based on the U-shape ‘hot and cold arm’ actuator configuration, and are fabricated using the commercially available Multi-User MEMS Processes (MUMPs
) that are produced by MEMSCAP, Inc. (Durham, NC, USA) and that include both surface micromachined (PolyMUMPs™) and silicon-on-insulator (SOIMUMPs™) MEMS fabrication technologies. The studied microgripper design variants have the same in-plane geometry, with their main differences arising from the thickness of the fabricated structures, the consequent air gap separation between the structure and the substrate surface, as well as the intrinsic nature of the silicon material used. These factors are all inherent characteristics of the specific fabrication technologies used. PolyMUMPs™ utilises polycrystalline silicon structures that are composed of two free-standing, independently stackable structural layers, enabling the user to achieve structure thicknesses of 1.5
m and 3.5
m, respectively, whereas SOIMUMPs™ utilises a 25
m thick single crystal silicon structure having only one free-standing structural layer. The microgripper design variants are presented and compared in this work to investigate the effect of their differences on the temperature distribution and the achieved end-effector displacement. These design variants were analytically studied, as well as numerically modelled using finite element analysis where coupled electrothermomechanical simulations were carried out in CoventorWare
(Version 10, Coventor, Inc., Cary, NC, USA). Experimental results for the microgrippers’ actuation under atmospheric pressure were obtained via optical microscopy studies for the PolyMUMPs™ structures, and they were found to be conforming with the predictions of the analytical and numerical models. The focus of this work is to identify which one of the studied design variants best optimises the microgripper’s electrothermomechanical performance in terms of a sufficient lateral tip displacement, minimum out-of-plane displacement at the arm tips and good heat transfer to limit the temperature at the cell gripping zone, as required for the deformability study of RBCs.