Packaging microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip devices is an underestimated challenge. In all cases channel structures are very small and capillary forces dominate the fluidic behavior of microfluidic devices. Another aspect is the very low volume of fluid that is stored or used in the lab-on-a-chip device. Leak tight structures and channels are then of utmost importance. In order for a business case to work in for instance, point of care diagnostics, shelf life requirements easily exceed 12 months. These shelf life requirements make the packaging challenge complete.
To ensure a clean environment and reproducible packaging conditions Micronit’s standard environment for assembly and packaging is our high quality cleanroom environment. Because of the small channel dimensions small particles can already ruin the functionality of a lab-on-a-chip device completely. Besides clean air also the humidity and temperature are kept constant to ensure reproducible and high quality packaging results.
Dominance of surface properties
As a result of the dominance of capillary forces the surface properties of the channels are a very important parameter to consider in Lab-on-a-chip packaging. Parameters to consider during development are for example the packaging materials, material stability, minimum outgassing of materials, stable surface coatings and many more. Besides the material properties also manufacturing processes and surface textures as well as fouling during use, influence the product quality.
The very small amounts of liquid used or stored in a microfluidic device result in a challenge to keep liquids in the devices. Any leakage, diffusion, evaporation or exchange of molecules with the liquids in the device will influence the reliable functioning of the lab on a chip device. Lab-on-a-chip packaging requires leak tight seals and long time liquid storage. Packaging also requires no diffusion of liquids or molecules out of the device over very long periods of time.
Custom lab-on-a-chip packaging solutions
Through the years Micronit has developed several methods for lab-on-a-chip packaging that can be customized to the specific product requirements. From using trays made of lab-on-a-chip compatible materials to product specific sealing and labelling options. It is our commitment to deliver the most cost effective packaging solutions for a specific application.
Lab-on-a-chip cartridge assembly
Another aspect of lab-on-a-chip integration that is challenging is the assembly of multiple parts that are made out of several types of materials into one functional lab-on-a-chip device. A CMOS chip could for example be the sensor part that is integrated into a glass based microfluidic channel network that in itself is interface to the human macro world through a microfluidic structure that is made out of polymer material. One of the challenges in product development is to keep the microfluidic device assembly cost low. One of the strategies is enable this is to do substrate level assembly as long as possible during the manufacturing. With this strategy the single piece handling cost are significantly reduced as one substrate can contain up to hundreds of devices.
Automated lab-on-a-chip cartridge assembly
To keep quality of products stable and independent of human interaction variations it is important to automate the assembly process. In lower quantities semi-automation is sufficient to reduce operator variation. If high volumes are required high fully automated assembly can be implemented to keep the quality high and constant.
Microfluidic Packaging and Assembly are very important aspects to consider during the business case and product development process. The cost of usage during the whole product lifecycle should be considered, including shelf life, logistics and storage costs and not purely the manufacturing cost of a device. Micronit experts works together with the customer experts to choose the right packaging and assembly process for the lab-on-a-chip product.