Rapid Microfluidic Prototyping – Fluidic Factory

Dolomite’s Fluidic Factory is the world’s first commercially available 3D printer for rapid prototyping of sealed microfluidic devices. It allows you to design your own microfluidic devices, manifolds, connectors (or select designs from the existing design library) and get printing in minutes. Fluidic Factory prints cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), a bio-compatible, optically transparent and robust polymer.

  • Inexpensive prototyping method: cost per device typically ranges from few dollars to several tens of dollars
  • Manufacture microfluidic devices in one single step: no cleaning or post processing required
  • Print small devices in 1 hour, larger devices under a day: faster than stereolithography (SLA), injection molding, or micromilling
  • Rapidly print 10s or 100s of low cost, disposable devices
  • Fluidic Factory uses COC  – a translucent, hard, biologically compatible polymer
  • Very easy to use: from CAD to print in minutes
  • Winner of the prestigious R&D100 Award 2016

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Dolomite's Fluidic Factory has been specifically designed for fast prototyping of fluidically sealed devices. It uses the FDM (fused deposition modelling) method where the polymer is melted at high temperature and ejected through the nozzle onto the print bed on which it then solidifies. 

Fluidic Factory has been designed to provide reliable sealing even at pressures of up to 20 bar (depending on chip design and printing resolution). It has three key innovations at its core:

  • Intelligent software: The desktop PC software analyses the 3D geometry of the device and identifies the internal voids and surfaces. The print paths are then created from the inside of the device outwards and the print head deposits filaments in a continuous, leak-proof manner.
  • Inductive heating: Fluidic Factory's clever design allows filaments to melt together when depositing on top of each other. A small volume of polymer is melted to a fluid state at very high temperatures and only held a few seconds before ejecting and depositing in a 'squashed' manner. This ensures excellent adherence, optimal polymer quality and leak-free channels.
  • 'Squashed' bead method: Fluidic Factory uses a 'squashed' bead method when depositing beads as opposed to many traditional FDM printers which deposit beads in circular cross-sections. The system is optimized for fluidic sealing.

 

Benefits

  • Fast and cost-effective prototyping
  • Reliable fluidic sealing: intelligent software creates leak-free flow paths and the hardware innovatively re-melts contact points ensuring sealing
  • Suitable for biological applications
  • Simple workflow: create a 3D CAD model , upload to user friendly software,  transfer to printer via USB drive, print
  • Ultimate design flexibility: design a device using virtually any CAD software on your PC or choose a design from Fluidic Factory Design Library
  • Chemically and biologically compatible: prints COC (cyclic olefin copolymer), a hard, translucent, biologically compatible polymer
  • Create unique devices: 3 dimensional mixers, non-rectangular chips, unique channel geometries and features not possible using etching, embossing, moulding or machining. Pause function allows creation of hybrid device. Layer offset function allows the possibility to print on top of additional COC substrates
  • Intuitive touch screen for easy selection of devices design and quick print. Displays real time status, time remaining and how much filament is left
  • Compact, light and quiet: ideal for bench top or desk top use, even in an office

Applications

Fluidic Factory benefits a wide range of industries  looking for a cost effective and rapid prototyping method or a manufacturing platform capable of quickly print 10s or 100s of low cost, disposable devices. It is commonly used for the following applications:

  • General microfluidics
  • Biomedical assays 
  • Point of care diagnostics
  • Organ-on-a-chip
  • Microreactors for flow chemistry
  • Enzymatic bioconversion
  • Engineering research and development
  • Educational use
  • Centrifugal microfluidics

Awards

Fluidic Factory was the winner of the prestigious 2016 R&D100 Awards.

2016 R&D100 Award Winner Logo

  • Printed material: cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), grade 8007S-04
  • Maximum device print size: 80 mm (l) x 50 mm (w) x 25 mm (h)
  • Maximum pressure for printed chips: up to 20 bar, subject to design geometry and printing resolution
  • Maximum temperature for printed chips: up to 80 °C (higher temperatures possible at the risk of loosing printed features)
  • Chemical compatibility of COC: good - compatible with alcohols, aqueous acids and bases
  • Method of printing: improved fused deposition modeling (FDM). Features are created by adding layers with an obround cross sectional area. As adjacent layers are printed, the polymer flows into the areas above and below the semi-cylindrical layers to create one seamless layer
  • Printing resolution (dimensions of layer) in fine printing mode: 320 µm (w) x 150 µm (h). Enables increased operating pressure and greater fluidic sealing
  • Printing resolution (dimensions of layer) in fast printing mode: 400 µm (w) x 200 µm (h). Enables quicker prototyping, useful for larger print items
  • Typical print time (size): 30 mins (small 15 x 15 x 2 mm), 1 hr (medium 40 x 15 x 4 mm), 24 hr (large 80 x 50 x 25 mm)
  • Workflow: create a CAD model, upload the .stl file to Fluidic Factory Software and convert it into a print file, transfer file to printer via USB, start printing
  • Types of devices: microfluidic chips, manifolds, micromixers, connectors, microreactors, hybrid devices, etc.

Unique properties of cyclic olefin copolymer (COC):

Fluidic Factory is the world's first COC printer and the first printer in the world able to fabricate fluidically sealed devices. COC has many benefits over other polymers:

  • Visibly transparent
  • Non-auto fluorescent
  • Excellent resistance towards water-soluble chemicals, acids, bases and alcohols
  • Bio-compatible
  • Very low water and gas absorption
  • Compatible with various sterilizing processes
  • Excellent mechanical properties allowing more realistic prototype manufacturing

The Story of Fluidic Factory

In this video Mark Gilligan, the Inventor of Fluidic Factory is talking about why Fluidic Factory was developed what are the benefits compared to other methods such as lithography, injection moulding or SLA.

Fluidic Factory: How does it work?

In this video Mark Gilligan, the inventor of Fluidic Factory and CEO of Dolomite Microfluidics explains how the printer works.

Fluidic Factory: Benefits of COC polymer

In this video Mark Gilligan, CEO of Dolomite Microfluidics explains the benefits of using COC (cyclic olefin copolymer) for prototyping.

Fluidic Factory: Hybrid Devices

One key application is the ability to print hybrid devices, such as devices with integrated electrochemical sensors for example. Watch the video to find out more..

Fluidic Factory 3D Printer for fluidically sealed devices

Fluidic Factory is the world’s first commercially available 3D printer for quick and easy fabrication of fluidically sealed devices. Design your own microfluidic chips, manifolds, connectors etc. or select from the design library and print for as little as $1 per chip using COC polymer (FDA approved, robust and translucent). The intelligent printer ensures fluidic paths are sealed and features an upgradable print head, bed and software for future functionality.

 

LLNL-logo



We use microfluidics to manufacture microcapsules, and initially used custom glass microfluidic chips from Dolomite for this application.

However, because we are a research lab, we are constantly tweaking and updating our designs, and manufacturing glass prototypes by hand is both laborious and complex; it’s as much art as science.

We wanted a 3D printer to allow rapid prototyping of new microfluidic devices, and our local Dolomite representative told us about the Fluidic Factory. We were immediately interested, and became a beta tester for the system.

Mindy Simon

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


Microfluidics is a new and rapidly growing area of interest for us and we’re receiving more and more requests to develop novel microfluidic chips.

”We can now manufacture fluidically-sealed, monobloc chips in just a couple of hours, which is a huge advantage, as we have no concerns over the pressures used during experiments causing delamination of the chips.

This enables rapid, iterative development of prototype microfluidic devices without the costs and intellectual property issues associated with using an external supplier – each chip uses just a few dollars of material.

Senior Researcher, Large Pharma Company