Microfluidic chip manufacturing
Transforming lab research into a sustainable business is becoming a trend in the microfluidic field. However, there are various challenges during the translation process due to the gaps between academia and industry, especially from laboratory prototyping to industrial scale-up production, which is critical for potential commercialization. Since 2013, Dr Zhang has made a significant effort to understand the translation challenges for SMEs and to establish the full process chain for prototyping and scale-up of microfluidic chips. As the laboratory prototyping of microfluidic devices relies on PDMS soft lithography, it is much different from industrial mass production technology using plastic injection moulding technologies. There exist many differences in material selection, design for manufacturing, production mould tools fabrication, precision replication and surface treatment & integration. The industrial production of microfluidic devices is rather complex and requires a full understanding of micro-manufacturing challenges and assay requirements to be successful (picture below). More than 80% of microfluidics fail to go to clinical because of the engineering difficulties in scaling up production.
Our team is trying to bridge the gap between laboratory prototyping and scale-up by focusing on manufacturing challenges. This would include the following research:
A full process chain was established covering design, prototyping, and scale-up to instrumentation (We have PDMS soft lithography, DLP precision 3D printing, nickel electroforming insert, injection mould design, micro injection moulding, surface treatment and precision thermal bonding)
Key enabling technologies: micro/nano mould fabrication, precision replication, precision bonding and surface treatment
Unquie high-performance self-lubricating mould technology
Design of manufacturing of plastic microfluidics: experience and process know-how
Material selection and process design: we are working on COC, COP and PMMA
Our process has been validated by collaboration with over 10 industry partners and research organisations. The same methodology has been used for our own digital-LAMP platform and nanoparticle synthesis platform development. It enables us to meet the deadline of the project and accelerate the overall project development. From experience working with biotech companies, it is important to involve microfluidic engineering professionals in order to de-risk full cartridge development. It is critical for start-ups and also for a researcher who is looking for commercialization funding.
Our team is looking forward to collaborating with partners from the research organisation and industry to help scale up microfluidic chip development via commercial collaboration or funding application.
Our commercial website is https://www.minan-tech.com/.