On average, the turn time from design to a set of molds for polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) based microfluidic devices is 6 weeks, each layer costing $600-$1500. The majority of devices (95%) are between 1 and 3 layers, each requiring a separate mold. A priori, the proper alignment of each layer to the previous plays a critical role in the functionality and overall chip yield (functioning vs. failure). Even with specialized alignment tables and bench tooling, the increasing complexity of multi-layered designs make it hard to increase above this total number. Further still because PDMS is extremely flexible, larger chambers and thin walls or membranes present failure modes. The assembly time for each device includes at minimum: 1 hour for mixing and curing PDMS, 15-20 minutes per layer of alignment and bonding, 15 minutes punching vias for inlets and outlets, and finally installing leads for fluid connections. Overall, assembly time for larger 3-layer devices can approach 4-6 hours, while the yield drops below 50%, some device designs are abandoned because of assembly issues.
Turning toward the refinement of a successful first test, most designs will proceed through 5 iterative redesigns. This adds 30 weeks or approximately 8-10 months of idle time, extending the product development timeline. A compounding issue at this phase are noted surface chemistry/material differences between PDMS and a typical hard polymers (COC, PMMA PC, etc) suitable for hot embossing or injection molding. It is well known that these differences significantly impact device function and can cause additional issues, requiring separate confirmation experiments, protracting get-to-market. Further still, in several instances, Skyphos found customers moving from PDMS to hot-embossing where the standard manufacturing method cannot replicate the lab design.
3D printing would have eliminated these surprises because it is applicable across the spectrum from prototype through production reducing the overall project costs and development cycle.
Test in less than 1 week
No Mold Costs
Eliminate 90% of down time