O Porriño, 11st of June 2018.- AIMEN has participated in five LEAs (Laser Equipment Assessment) since the beginning of the LASHARE Project. PAPS “Automated positioning, alignment and process setup for laser welding of microfluidic chips” is one of them and it has involved, apart from AIMEN, the companies LASING S.A. (Spain) and SensLab (Germany).
Sealing of complex microfluidic labs-on-chip arrangements is key for their functionality, while its price is crucial for market penetration. Currently, manufacturing of polymer lab-on-chip devices relies on adhesive bonding for the sealing, which is very time-consuming and limited in flexibility and it also requires a visual inspection, which accounts for 80% of the sealing time. Laser welding is an attractive alternative, but accuracy specifications are not met by state-of-the-art commercial laser welding equipment.
In this context, PAPS emerges with the aim of creating a laser-based equipment that integrates loading, handling, alignment, welding and inspection in one go. The goal of this equipment is to reduce the whole sealing process time down to 25% of the current bonding cycle time, while increasing the quality of the foils union, thus reducing the number of defective parts.
A working prototype of a laser welding system has been produced in PAPS, demonstrating its operation by laser sealing a real microfluidic device by SensLab. Overall accuracy with PAPS laser process has been verified to be better than 10 µm. Moreover, it ensures great repeatability, producing high quality welding seams as thin as 60 µm, while providing a very high productivity rate: under 5 seconds are required to weld a whole complex microfluidic chip, granting plenty of time for the handling alignment and inspection processes.
For a video of the working equipment, check here:
Once the PAPS system is fully validated, it will be the first laser-based industrial equipment able to weld lab-on-chip foils in a fully automated way. It is planned to be marketed shortly after the end of the project.