Productionisation issues for commercialisation of microfluidic based devices

Purpose Microfluidic or “lab-on-a-chip” technology is seen as a key enabler in the rapidly expanding market for medical point-of-care (POC) and other kinds of portable diagnostic device. In this paper we discuss two proposed packaging processes for large scale manufacture of microfluidic systems. Design/methodology/approach In the first packaging process, polymer overmoulding of a microfluidic chip is used to form a fluidic manifold integrated with the device in a single step. The anticipated advantages of the proposed method of packaging are ease of assembly and low part count. The second process involves the use of low frequency induction heating (LFIH) for the sealing of polymer microfluidics. The method requires no chamber, and provides fast and selective heating to the interface to be joined. Findings Initial work with glass microfluidics has demonstrated feasibility for overmoulding through two separate sealing principles. One is using the overmould as a physical support structure and providing sealing using a compliant ferrule. The other relies on adhesion between the material of the overmould and the microfluidic device to provide a seal. As regards LFIH work on selection and structuring of susceptor materials is reported, together with analysis of the dimensions of the heat affected zone. Acrylic plates have been joined using a thin (<10 μm) nickel susceptor providing a fluid seal that withstood a pressure of 590kPa. Originality/value Microfluidic chips have until now been produced in relatively small numbers. To scale-up from laboratory systems to the production volumes required for mass markets, packaging methods need to be adapted to mass manufacture.