Microfluidic lab-on-a-chip technologies represent a revolution in laboratory experimentation, bringing the benefits of miniaturisation, integration, and automation to many research-based industries.
Microfluidics has been clearly identified as an enabling technology to support the development of the point-of-care and molecular biology markets. The attractiveness of microfluidic chips stems from several inherent advantages, among them minute sample consumption, significantly reduced analysis times, and the on chip integration of sample preparation and analysis steps.
Currently, the majority of microfluidic lab-on-a-chip devices are produced with glass/silicon-based materials, elastomers, or micro-machined polymer chips. The expensive and time-consuming fabrication of such devices limits the use of this technology. With VTT’s pilot roll-to-roll printing facilities and proven technological competencies, the use of this technology is brought to an industrially applicable level.
VTT has outstanding expertise in the development of low-cost indicators and sensors for consumer and environmental applications. These indicators and sensors are based on chemical and biochemical reactions, which are expressed in functional inks. Depending on the application, different reactive chemistries are printed on paper- or plastic-based substrates via conventional printing methods such as inkjet, flexographic, and screen printing. VTT has especially strong experience in the development of visual indicators sensitive to the presence of volatile substances and oxygen.
Active paper enables new functionalities for the consumer products and packages. Paper or board with bioactive functionalities can help the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry in need of enhanced functionality. In terms of performance, bioactive paper can help packaged products in two ways. Firstly, it enables the development of completely new types of CPG products based on novel printed functionalities. Secondly, it can be used in companion products, which can help in the choice and use of the product. Examples of these include different indicating and monitoring tests, such as cleanliness indicators to be sold with cleaning products or breath-freshener gum packages that indicate bad breath.
VTT’s expertise in roll-to-roll manufacturing facilitates a cost-effective and high-volume approach to the manufacture of diagnostic products. It also enables a better design of test products, as demonstrated by the emergence of numerous prototypes integrating this very production method.
Cost savings can be derived from materials and production methods. A case in point, paper is an order of magnitude cheaper than other materials, and printing processes are considerably faster than many of today’s manufacturing methods. Reducing costs allows for disposability of the tests, which in turn enables product and process innovation in health care and well-being.
What is more, the use of printing processes raises new possibilities with regards to the design of diagnostics and sensing products. Tests can be designed for ease of use when sampling or reading results, for example. Together with the potential for extremely high-volume production, design versatility helps to open up opportunities for the diagnostics industry in completely new application areas.
Our key services for printed functional devices include:
- Roll-to-roll manufacturing and prototyping of microfluidic devices
- Printing of reagents directly to various low cost substrates
- Development of readout instrumentation