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How to Design a Microfluidic Device

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How to Design a Microfluidic Device – Step 1

Start At the End

Have the end in mind.  Break down the problem step by step; working backwards to the beginning. The beginning is a set of reagents that form an assay protocol or workflow that will be acted on by a set of fluidic components.
At the end of the protocol, the result will be measured by a sensor or detector.
The objective is to be able to measure things reproducibly.  The microfluidic device is there to make repeatable measurements.

How to Design a Microfluidic Device – Step 2

Think Modularly

The objective is to create a set of cartridge specifications that will enable design for manufacture while:

  • delivering on the required limit of detection
  • achieving sensitivity within a limit of variability
  • ensuring useful results are consistently provided

Organize the development in a logical sequence:

  • resolve big risk areas first
  • define what assay modifications can reduce the number of reagent additions
    • simplify the assay protocol
    • combine reagents
    • develop novel IP around the reagents and protocol

Development planning includes parallel efforts to address reagent storage and assay integration into the microfluidic.

How to Design a Microfluidic Device – Step 3

Troubleshooting and Lessons Learned

At this phase, experience shifts to meeting programmatic needs while satisfying the needs for:
  • Design for Manufacture
  • Scale-up for Development
The real challenge isn’t getting the microfluidic to work.  It’s about getting the assay to perform in a repeatable fashion.
ALine is an expert in supporting this “11th hour” effort to meet demonstration deadlines for funding.  It involves fabrication of parts with a 1-3 day turn around.  It also involves being at the customer location providing engineering support to address any integration issues.

The Integration Challenge

There are two major aspects to consider in microfluidic device design:

  • the material surface properties and its impact on fluid movement physics
  • the method of manufacture

Most microfluidic cartridge designs require mixed materials and components – creating the need for more than one manufacturing method. Additionally, the shelf life must typically last one year. Finally, all this performance needs to be at a price point of $5 or less.

With over 20 years of experience, and a team of industry experts, ALine can address all these challenges.

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