Unmatched flexibility and applicability Micromachining is a well-established abrasive method for working with polymers, metals, alloys and many other materials during fabrication. Micronit specialises in high precision direct micromilling, as well as in creating moulds for microfluidic applications. This technology is especially useful for rapid prototyping and short fabrication series. Furthermore, it sharpens the features down to a few tens of microns. Micromachining offers unmatched flexibility and applicability for manufacturing in a wide range of materials. This flexibility makes it particularly suitable for fast idea-to-prototype runs, fabrication of complicated 2.5D and 3D structures, iterative product design and development, as well as for providing medium scale production.
Direct micromachining using CNC-Milling Direct micromachining using CNC milling (computer numerical control milling) is about eliminating materials on a micrometre scale. This is a process that Micronit uses to make microfluidic products. Mainly, this process is used for fast prototyping with bio-compatible materials, which makes it particularly useful for biological, pharmaceutical or medical applications. Typically, this process is used to create moulds for replication methods that include hot-embossing and injection moulding.
Polymer replication Reproduction of small or large scale products is called replication, which can be achieved with different processes for different volumes. Below are the most common techniques:
Hot embossing Hot embossing replication works by using a mould in a polymer substrate. This efficient replication method, suitable for medium-volume manufacturing, allows for the formation of smaller and smoother microstructures in polymer substrates compared to micromilling. Hot embossing and injection moulding, together with micromilled stamps and moulds, can be a suitable option for fast prototyping, medium volume production series and upscaling production runs.
Injection moulding High-volume polymer replication with very small features, down to a nanometre, and superior surface properties go through injection moulding. Here, the mould is made in a photolithographic process. This process takes more time than micromachining, but the tolerances are optimised with this technique.
Benefits One product development partner is needed, from prototyping to high-volume production A clear understanding during development about the critical parameters for optimal polymer replication
A lab-on-a-chip solution Biochips for culturing cells, tissue or microorganisms are of interest to several (bio)medical and pharmaceutical applications such as tissue engineering, organ-on-a-chip and high-throughput drug screening. Leiden University wanted to develop such a biochip for a potential (high-throughput) pharmaceutical application based on a microfluidic flow-through system, in aid of their research on whole-animal models (e.g. zebrafish embryos). This is an area their Institute of Biology specialises in and through which they strive to replace rodents in some areas of research. Their request for this particular biochip formed an interesting challenge, because no animal embryo had ever been shown to undergo embryonic development in a microfluidic flow-through system.
Leiden University enlisted the help of local partners, including Micronit. Since we have experience in the development of biochips based on microfluidics, it was an easy match to make. Together with Leiden University we developed and prototyped a specialised lab-on-a-chip, containing 32 microwells, made from bonded layers of borosilicate glass. Thus, by using microtechnology it was possible for more than a 100 embryos to be cultured in an area, excluding infrastructure, smaller than a credit card.