Small world: Microfluidic devices from prototype to scale-up

Medical Diagnostics Goes Micro and Smart is a Coock project carried out by Sirris and MEDVIA. VLAIO funds Coock projects to enhance knowledge transfer between Flemish companies, research institutions and academia.

Sirris, a member of MEDVIA, is supporting Belgian companies in the development of  microfluidic devices for lab-on-chip applications. By considering mass production in the design stage, the resulting prototypes are ready for scale-up – a challenge that has killed more than one good idea.

The services provided by Sirris are at the heart of MEDVIA’s goals: to help companies and research organizations to realize innovations. Sirris’s industrial labs allow its 150-strong team of experts to assist companies and institutions to adopt new technologies.

Sirris and MEDVIA are working together on Medical Diagnostics Goes Micro and Smart, a Coock project. Coock projects are funded by VLAIO with the goal of transferring knowledge to companies in order to ensure a competitive edge and that industry has the tools they need to quickly respond to economic and societal challenges.

Different applications, similar functions

“The project supports companies in creating portable microlabs, or ‘lab-on-chip’ devices, to carry out diagnostic tests in healthcare, as well as for environmental, agricultural and food monitoring,” explains Tania Drissen, a senior engineer at Sirris.

Everyone understands the need for on-site diagnostic testing that can be carried out without needing specific expertise. It allows tests to be performed outside the lab and in remote areas, delivering a quick result. Not having to wait days or weeks for the result of a diagnostic test can mean saving precious time in starting therapy or taking corrective measures.

The project focuses on transfer of expertise that enables the design and manufacture of microfluidic lab-on-chip devices capable of combining different bio-chemical processes for the application needed. This includes sample preparation steps such as lysis, reagent dosing and mixing, DNA extraction and amplification as well as the actual detection of the target marker.

Scalable and regulated

Sirris is ready to help companies to design devices that are ready for proof-of-concept and even for scale-up and to implement the manufacturing process. “There are a lot of developments at the research level leading to prototypes,” says Denis Vandormael, Senior Project Manager of Sirris’s Product Development Hub. “But scaling-up could become a  problem if it is not properly addressed from the early prototyping stages.”

The prototype manufacturing processes, including 3D printing, micromachining and injection molding, make it possible to create microfluidic plastic prototypes that not only act as a proof-of-concept but are ready for large-scale production and for the preparation of the certification procedures. “If you can provide a prototype that is fully the same as what you are going to put on the market, it can save a lot of time,” explains Vandormael.

The injection molding process is capable of creating structures in submillimeter sizes. Vandormael: “The design and the production of the mold, the kind of polymer you need to use, the injection molding and bonding processes – we want to help companies that want to design and produce such microfluidic products.”

Contact Sirris for more information or any questions about Medical Diagnostics Goes Micro and Smart