Automated Placement Delivers Efficiency and Accuracy to Manufacturing of Microfluidic Chips
The expanded global need for medical Point-of-Care disposable diagnostic devices is reaching a point where demand soon will exceed supply. This is especially the result when exacting cartridge assembly is paramount in regard to volume batch requirements. The FlexStacker™ microfluidic assembly system from Preco® represents a vital improvement in the rapid and precise compilation of Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) cartridge laminates, with its design centered on longer, uninterrupted production runs.
Preco’s renowned background in camera vision technology provides the positional tolerances that are expected for microfluidics quality and consistency. The FlexStacker utilizes multi-head, single-purpose dispensing modules to allow precise work-in-progress (WIP) pre-assembly placements, at double the rate per module, and to eliminate typical throughput constraints. This avoids labor-intensive, hand-placed laminations that are subject to distortion resulting from conventional pin-mount tooling holes, and that cause frequent misalignment from one cartridge layer to the next.
The FlexStacker layer placement process typically handles pre-channeled layers and vias, produced principally from adhesives and polymer films that are widely accepted in the medical industry. The FlexStacker is useful for realizing results stemming from pharmaceutical and clinical bio-science research, as well as from prototyping labs that require scaled-up production solutions. Typical applications include disease virus/bacteria detection; urine analysis; drug delivery and drugs detection; various applications involving blood work, etc.
The designers of LOCs, micro-Total Analytical Systems (µTAS), and in general, In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) integrated functions often seek possible solutions first and marketable avenues for cartridge construction following laboratory and clinical success. As an open platform, The FlexStacker invites development for placement variations—insertions such as rigid or semi-rigid substrates, and microfluidic membranes, filters, pumps, valves, other MEMS-type devices, or other fluidic control components. Within the FlexStacker automation structure, the Preco team pursues alongside its customers, alternative manufacturable solutions where possible.
Preco offers the FlexStacker both as fully-owned and installed equipment at the customer site or, as a contract-manufactured service at our Medical & Precision Converting facility. Through expert customer clinical development and in tandem with Preco’s comprehension of assembly methods, either path may be tailored to address the particular needs of the work to be performed.
RCP™ Sub-Assembly Production for Work-in-Progress Layers
Rotary Laser Processing
for Cartridge Laminates
Highly accurate laser processing is simple to achieve in channels, vias and other markings of adhesive and polymer layers of a work-in-progress (WIP) sub-assembly, when using the Rotary Converting Platform™ (RCP) from Preco. The RCP is equipped with true X-Y-theta in-motion registration to make close tolerance alignment even closer.
The RCP standard machine is outfitted either for processing one layer with one laser module for a single pass, or with two lasers for creating a basic WIP multi-layered sub-assembly in fewer steps. Microfluidic channel widths and vias are as narrow as 125µm, and with process speeds of up to 3 meters per minute with optimized material conditions.
Rotary processing of material also permits as needed, the addition or removal of liner or interleaf material as an automatic operation. Precise servomotor drive control ensures well-adjusted web tensioning so that laminated substrates are dispensed to a stack having a profile that is free of curves or distortion.