Research Projects

Assessment of Roller-Embossing (RE) processes for polymer-based microfluidic device manufacturing

This project carried out a technical and economical assessment of a conceptual RE process for the manufacturing of microfluidic devices. RE is of interest due to its high potential to be a low-cost and efficient manufacturing technology over the existing Injection Moulding process (IM). One particular challenge in the assessment of a technology concept comes from the insufficient details for quantification of production cost. The assessment is achieved through the benchmarking of RE and IM by a specific case. A cost model for RE and a cost model for IM are developed based on a closed-looped modelling framework that incorporates the Process-based Cost Modelling (PBCM) approach. Through the analysis of the benchmarking results, a set of characteristics and behaviours of

cost drivers of the RE are established.

Solution

A closed-looped modelling framework enables the assessment and analysis of the economics of manufacturing technology with alternatives. Initial steps involve conceptualising and modelling the process operations based on Process-based Cost Modelling (PBCM) approach. The next two steps involve carrying out sensitivity analyses of key parameters and understanding the behaviour of critical cost drivers. This establishes a set of characteristics which feedbacks to the technical team for process optimisation and the management for decision support making.

Problems Addressed

To penetrate the global market for microfluidics techonology, it is crucial to explore a low-cost and efficient manufacturing technology of microfluidic chips. Currently, plastic Injection Moulding (IM) process is widely used in the manufacturing of microfluidic chips. To reduce production cost and the lead time, a Roller-Embossing (RE) conceptual process is being proposed. However, to date, there is not much understanding of the economical performance of using RE in the fabrication of microfluidic devices.

Applications

To penetrate the global market for microfluidics techonology, it is crucial to explore a low-cost and efficient manufacturing technology (such as Roller-Embossing) of microfluidic chips. The assessment results from the closed-loop modelling methodology forecast the cost implications and help to understand the behaviour of critical cost drivers of a conceptual Roller-Embossing process. This is significantly useful for the industry to make technical and economical decisions in the development of commercially viable Roller-Embossing.