pathways. Notable applications and processes include organ-on-a-chip, point of care diagnostics, drug development, chemical synthesis, enzymatic bioconversion, biomedical assays, and for research and development purposes. Device types that can be created with the Fluidic Factory include micromixers, microreactors, droplet and emulsion chips, custom connectors, fluidic manifolds, and sensor cartridge designs.
The solution isn’t meant to replace methods better suited for large-scale production of microfluidic devices. Because of lower costs, microdevices fabricated in cleanrooms and through injection molding, for example, are ideal for final-product stage applications. These methods are simply impractical for prototyping and small-scale production, processes for which the Fluidic Factory is ideal. The printer operates with little to no waste material and doesn’t require any support material. This means that virtually all of the polymer being used during printing is actually part of the microfluidic device. Tooling costs are also relatively low.
“With the Fluidic Factory, it’s cost-effective to print a single device, change the design or geometry and reprint a new device,” said Dr. Jina. “Contrarily, microdevices fabricated in cleanrooms and through injection molding, for example, are ideal for scaling up and creating large volumes of the same design. These fabrication methods are not mutually exclusive. Fluidic Factory enables users to shorten the route to market by allowing affordable and quick fabrication of individual devices. Techniques such as injection molding can then be used subsequently to reproduce hundreds or thousands of the same device geometry.”
The printer was also created to be adaptable for the future. The print head of the unit has been designed to be modular, enabling the potential development of further fabrication heads based on other fabrication methods entirely, and these developments will be dictated by the needs of current users of the Fluidic Factory, according to Dr. Jina.
Tracey Schelmetic graduated from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn. and began her long career as a technology and science writer and editor at Appleton & Lange, the now-defunct medical publishing arm of Simon & Schuster. Later, as the editorial director of telecom trade journal Customer Interaction Solutions (today Customer magazine) she became a well-recognized voice in the contact center industry. Today, she is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing and technology, telecommunications, and enterprise software.