Microfluidics - designing in the lowest cost
You’ve developed a new assay. After considerable effort, resource and investment, it’s been shown in the lab to be accurate and consistent and promises to be a genuine solution to a real problem. Now it’s time to consider how it might manifest itself as a product. The problem is that the effort, resource and investment are set to continue. Poor design decisions at this stage will turn a viable product into a non-starter. The opposite is also true, as wise decisions now can turn a good idea into a world-beater. Commercial success will require a cost per test and ease of use better than the opposition (we’ll assume the lab work has already demonstrated the performance benefits we’ll need).
Typically, products will consist of a disposable cartridge element and an instrument to read it. Provided the instrument is not too large or expensive and is easy to use it shouldn’t be a problem and will form only a small portion of any profit. A good lab-on-chip will utilise a small sample volume and will be designed around microfluidic principles. Good cartridge design will be what provides the profit. Where do we start? Let’s look at the functions required of a typical microfluidic chip.