The Fluidic Factory is the First Commercial 3D Printer for Fabricating Microfluidic Chips & More
While we see bright, shiny new desktop 3D printers every day, the Fluidic Factory 3D printer puts the emphasis in new unlike most others, simply because it provides something most of us have never considered in a machine. This is the first commercial FDM 3D printer of its kind, allowing virtually anyone to make fluidically sealed devices (for performance in mixing, sorting, pumping and more) with fast prototyping, using cyclic olefin copolymer (COC), which is a robust material that is biocompatible, translucent, and approved by the FDA for implantables. You can make devices such as:
- Microfluidic chips
- Manifolds and connectors
- Selections from the Fluidic Factory design library (at as little as $1 per chip)
The Fluidic Factory is meant for users involved in applications such as organ-on-a-chip, analytical processes, point of care diagnostics, drug development, education, chemical synthesis, and biomedical assays. Described as an ‘intelligent printer,’ it ensures that fluidic paths are sealed, and features an upgradeable print head, bed, and software for added user functionality in the future (as well as allowing use of a variety of polymers, ultra-high definition printing, micromilling, fluid dispensing, and even bio-printing).
You can design your own device, or use the library, and files are easily transferred to the standalone printer via USB. An intuitive touchscreen allows you to choose your particular file and print, as well as checking status in real time and receiving information on time left, and how much filament has been used. The compact printer features a small print bed, made specifically for small items like chips, is magnetic, and allows you to remove your prints easily. (For an example of how the Fluidic Factory works, see the demonstration of droplet generation below, with the 3D printer droplet chip.)
With the use of inductive heating, a ‘clever design’ allows for the filament to melt together, and then 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 it. This allows for the best adherence possible, optimizes the material, and promises ‘leak-free channels.’ The printer employs a ‘squashed bead method’ which works by depositing beads, instead of laying them down in a circular cross-section pattern. This unique method is necessary for fluidic sealing of the print.
The Fluidic Factory 3D printer allows for unique design creativity, as well as the opportunity to make innovative devices like 3D mixers, non-rectangular chips, and unique channel geometries and features not possible using etching, embossing, molding or machining techniques.
Other features include:
- Motor feedback – ensures correct feed rate of polymer.
- Extremely accurate nozzle movement – offers great precision in printing. Disposable nozzle ensures preservation of printing quality and accuracy of less than 1 µm.
- Inductive heating coil – allows for high-speed heating, good control, and easy replacement of print nozzle, which is disposable.
- Polymer reel – changed in seconds, holds 60 m of material with a disposable nozzle changed for every reel. Auto-alert lets you know when polymer is running low.
- Compact size – 300 x 300 x 500 mm; 10 kg.
Just launched at Lab-on-a-Chip & Microfluidics 2016 being held in Madrid, Spain from March 15-16, the new 3D printer is manufactured by Dolomite. Founded in 2005, the company is headquartered in the UK and specializes in micro-fabrication and microfluidics. They now have clients in over 50 countries, involved in sectors such as universities and colleges, biotechs, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, government, manufacturing, and more—to include numerous startups.
- Material: COC (cyclic olefin copolymer), grade 8007S-04
- Maximum size: 85 mm (l) x 50 mm (w) x 25 mm (h)
- Maximum pressure: 10-20 bar, subject to design geometry
- Temperature range: Up to 77°C
- Chemical compatibility: COC is one of the most resistant plastics to a wide range of polar solvents and molecules
- Method of printing: Features are created by adding layers with an obround cross sectional area (‘cylinder’ with flattened, parallel top and bottom and semicylinder sides). As adjacent layers are printed, the polymer flows into the areas above and below the semicylindrical layers to create one seamless layer
- Printing resolution (dimensions of layer): Fine printing mode: 320 µm (w) x 150 µm (h). Increased operating pressure and greater fluidic sealing. Fast printing mode: 400 µm (w) x 200 µm (h). Quicker prototyping, useful for larger print items
- Print time (size): 20mins (small 15 x 15 x 2 mm), 1hr (medium 40 x 15 x 4 mm), 24hr (large 85 x 50 x 25 mm)
- Size: 300 x 300 x 500 mm
- Weight: 10 kg
- Setup time: 10 min from unboxing to print
- Print head with inductive heater: User replaceable to enable future upgrades. Heats up to 240°C. Includes safety feature to ensure print head cannot be removed when hot
- Self-cleaning COC polymer filament reel: Contains 60 m of polymer (typically suitable for printing 100 medium sized chips) with disposable nozzle
- Print bed: User replaceable to enable future upgrades. Temperature up to 120°C
- Print bed tray: Magnetically detachable to enable easy removal of printed device or replacement in the case of wear
- Data transfer: USB flash drive
See a demonstration of the new Fluidic Factory 3D printer in the video below. Is this technology that you would be interesting in purchasing? Discuss in the Fluidic Factory 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.
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