Skyphos offers an ultra-high precision rapid prototyping service for
microfluidics, manifolds, lab-on-a-chip, medical devices, and accessories.
Skyphos simplifies microfluidics:
“Wafer manufacturing is wonderful for semiconductors processors and transistors, but microfluidics and biological compounds are significantly different, requiring their own unique and dedicated process.“
Since the inception of lab-on-a-chip (LOAC), the community has relied on lithography, a re-appropriated process from the semi-conductor industry.
The main reasons to change manufacturing platform comes from three complaints found during our customer discovery phase:
3. Design limits arising from available materials and 2D-based process
Skyphos challenges these norms through our patent pending 3D printer and process. Resulting in an an agile process for product development
On average it takes 6 weeks to turn a design from drawing into a Silicon mold. Each layer in a device requires a separate mold. Most devices are between 1 and 3 layers – representing 95% of devices. Materials and alignment difficulties make it hard to increase above this layering level. Each mold generally costs between $600 and $1500.
Since most designs require an average of 5 cycles for chip refinement, this means a total of 30 weeks are useless in the design cycle because the lab is waiting to test that idea. In total we calculate this to average $12-$50k per refinement cycle – a total of $250k and 8-10 months of idle time or non-value add.
That’s an extra $250k spent in the development; what about getting to market first or at all?
On several instances, we have found customers looking for a solution to move from lab to high-throughput – but manufacturing cannot produce the part. If it is calculated that the product will yield $2M per year, and the product arrives on market 10 months later due to outdated methods, that’s $1.8M in lost revenue and possibly loss of first-mover advantage.
Time and Expense
Process and material limitations
The second issue facing researchers are limits imposed by the actual process and the materials which can be implemented, and at what time those materials can be used:
2D extrusion mold-based designs: Lithography works by etching down or building up designs in only the Z direction, as such only geometric shapes like circles, squares, vertical walls can be implemented. While some items like domes or pyramids are possible, draft angles much harder to create. Structures like beads-on-a-string or cantilevered designs are only possible through 3D printing.
Limited Aspect Ratios: Structures are also limited in height to base aspects, generally at 2:1 dependent on the cross-section in XY in PDMS. When transferring to hot-embossing or injection molding this ratio is negatively affected as the cross section is reduced.
Example: Pillars of 100um cross section can be constructed at a 200um height with reasonable success in both PDMS and hot-embossing or injection molding. However, below 50um the aspect ratio of PDMS will be 1:2 and injection molding closer to 1:0.5 – meaning 50 um base by 25 um.
These same limits for 3D printing do not exist. We have successfully created 20 um pillars at 200um tall, representing a 1:10 aspect. This can be increased by adding buttresses or ties between the pillars at different heights to create extremely strong internal truss systems. Overall, this increases both surface area and possible flow-rates. Resulting in overall processing power improvements for microfluidic devices; as the available surface-area and a reasonable flow-rate are required to detect signal over background.
Prototype is Production: Several papers dive into the changing materials and difficulties moving from PDMS to high-production. Skyphos chips have a significant advantage in that one material can be used from prototype through production. And, while our chips are direct mounted to glass slides, we can print a thin layer of the same polymer on the glass slide – creating a complete envelope of the same material around channels and chambers.
This eliminates the issues around different material strength or flexibility, flow-rates of thermoplastic polymers and ability to re-create the lab-based geometries, and surface charges. Including the interaction of glass:PDMS hydrophobicity issue.
Flexible and direct to final product solution
As illustrated on the charts, Skyphos offers a unique and competitive advantage working from the research level and up. Even if your lab already has a device mold and using internal personnel to make 10 copies is most likely the tipping point where it becomes better to use Skyphos as a service. Chips can be ordered open or closed, with proper QC and internal testing guaranteeing the quality.
Skyphos chips – whether in a pack of 10 for initial designs or shipments of 10k are all the same. The initial experiment is an actual test of the final product. There is not a question of spending 20-80K on a mold to find out if major updates are required. There is no question of if the manufacturing process can support the lab design. Inverted wafers are not accidentally ordered. For the first time, the customer is testing the finished product at any stage of the design process regardless of updates.