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Precision Flow Cells for Spectroscopy and Imaging

By August 24, 2021No Comments

Application Brief

Over our nearly 2 decades in business, we’ve learned a lot about choices of materials and processes to develop unique solutions for a class of devices that involves optical interrogation, often on a microscope stage, or as a critical component of a silicon-based sensor. This class of devices we call detection Flow Cells or chambers.

What we’ve learned is that many devices that would difficult to fabricate with injection molding or CNC machining, or even in glass, can be fabricated using engineered laminates using laser die cutting and bonding with a select pressure sensitive adhesive. Our proprietary platform not only offers a true rapid prototyping approach to microfluidics, but also enables complex assemblies between materials that are hard to bring together otherwise. Materials such as silicon, glass, and fluoropolymers are often difficult to integrate with plastics. But we’ve developed a material set with trusted suppliers, and created processes to produce these sophisticated microfluidics.

Measurements in flow cells and detection chambers is an application area in microfluidics that we often encounter. Whether it’s for spectroscopic or optical imaging, the demand for very short pathlengths channels or chambers (10um to 100’s of microns) with excellent optical clarity are among the many reasons we create bespoke Flow Cells and Detection Chambers. Below is a short list of the variety of applications we’ve encountered.

Because we work with many types of materials, and don’t require tooling for our fabrication processes, we can produce a range of functionality, geometries and chamber heights with a 7-10 day turn around time.

We operate under an ISO13485 certified quality system, and have a 99% on-time shipment record. We do 100% QC inspection and stand behind our product; if your device is out of spec, we replace it free. If there is an error, we will evaluate the part and determine if it can be re-worked, replaced, or require a design change to produce functional parts.

That speed, combined with many years of expertise honed through the production of challenging parts, is the reason for our success in solving these unique microfluidic challenges. Our accumulated fabrication experience and our scientific expertise are applied in creating practical, meaningful solutions for our customers. We’re not going to make your part to print if we recognize it won’t work as intended for your application. Instead, we’ll work with you to re-design the part to ensure it meets your functional requirements.

A number of configurations to optimize the geometry can be explored before investing in tooling for higher volume manufacturing methods, if needed. But our processes can support volumes in the 10,000’s, often enough for niche applications. 

Successful applications include:

  • Viral Particle Imaging – High resolution (60x) imaging through plastic components with incredible results. Fabricated to eliminate scratches in optical areas or particulates that confound measurements.
  • Whole, undiluted blood – spectroscopic chambers designed for oxygen exchange measurements of whole blood. These unique flow cells were designed to support research on oxygen exchange in whole blood with very high-quality transmission measurements from 400 – 700 nm in a standard plate reader.
  • UV-VIS Spectroscopy of undiluted paint -Short pathlength, large area transmission measurements – measure opaque solutions, such a paint without sample dilution, materials chosen to minimize optical haze and micro-scratches, and ensure that pathlength remains constant across an area as a large as 2.5 cm in diameter.
  • UV Spectroscopy of Tannins – UV transmissive, short pathlength cuvettes that fit into a standard 1 cm sample holder – excellent for measuring tannins in red wines. The near UV is a fingerprint region for tannin and tannin complexes and are used to evaluate the flavor profile, and aging with different varietals.
  • NextGen Sequencing – chambers that attach to silicon sensors, providing leak-free, repeatable measurements. These chambers fill without bubbles and allow the maximum use of the sensor area. We’ve designed and fabricated a variety of these chambers and we are skilled at integrating them with the silicon sensor.

How we do what we do:

An advantage of using commercially available film and sheet stock and transfer adhesives is they that they are manufactured with tight tolerances, 2% to 5% variability is readily available. Some transfer adhesives are as thin as 10 microns, with 25 and 50 more readily available and easier to work with. Even with 10% variability in thickness, when you calculate variability in pathlength using propagation of errors for the stack, you find that the stack tolerance variability is statistically less than variability of each component.

If you want to learn more details on a specific application, contact me at [email protected]

Our experience and quality go into every design we produce. We enjoy solving unique application requirements to support critical research and development.

Talk with our team about your application, we love a challenge!

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