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There’s often a fine line between health and illness. Microfluidic devices detect important samples of fluids that provide crucial information to patients and their caregivers.

However, microfluidics requires the right materials to ensure accuracy as these critical tools are designed, manufactured, and assembled. Usually small with intricate channels and circuits, microfluidic devices require the exact right material properties.

In previous articles, we covered the four key materials for building microfluidic devices and how microfluidic fabrication technology allows for many diagnostic applications. Today, we’ll explore converting adhesive materials and provide insight into fabrication strategies when developing advanced microfluidic devices.

Microfluidic Device Tape Components and Types

Tape types are often categorized by their function and/or appearance.

Single-coated Tapes — This is basically an adhesive anchored to a substrate and can be used with or without a secondary liner. If there is no liner, the substrate’s backside has a surface treatment or coating that allows the adhesive to release when unwinding. They're typically strong and conformable, and some can adhere to another component (called tape stacking).

Double-coated Tapes — This is a single substrate with adhesives on both sides, which could be different adhesives depending on the adhesion levels needed. These can be constructed with either two single-coated liners or with one double-coated liner that releases both layers of adhesive.

Transfer Adhesives — Similar to double-coated tapes, just without a substrate, these are made with either a two-sided release coated liner or two single-sided liners. The differential in the release of the liners needs to be correct. If the two release coatings have similar adhesion, the liner could pick or split during processing.

It’s also important to understand how each component of tape functions when creating microfluidic devices.

Adhesives — This one sounds simple: it bonds tape to a surface. Within microfluidic devices, tapes bond to plates for sealing sample-well boundaries or bond to components to build the device (labs-on-a-chip, test strips). Adhesives must be chemically stable due to temperature changes during processing.

Carrier (or Backing) — This component dictates a tape’s mechanical characteristics and needs to be selected based on how that tape should perform (does it need to be rigid, stretchy, permanent, or temporary?), how it will be applied (will it be hand applied or automatically dispensed?), and how it will be processed (will it be slit or die-cut?). Some microfluidic tapes have surface modifications added, enabling hydrophilic characteristics, creating better adhesion, or helping with adhesive release.

Liners — Typically a coated paper or film, this component is a clean surface that serves as a covering for the adhesive and protects it from exposure and damage. Some liners help with processing only, and some stay with the tape until it’s used. Liners are available in numerous substrates based on the needs of the user.

Popular 3M Microfluidic Tapes:

  • 3M 9793R Diagnostic Microfluidic Medical Tape
  • 3M 9795R Advanced Polyolefin Diagnostic Microfluidic Medical Tape
  • 3M 9792R Aluminum Diagnostic Microfluidic Medical Tape
  • 3M 9964 Clear Polyester Diagnostic Microfluidic Medical Tape
  • 3M 9965 White Polyester Double Sided Diagnostic Microfluidic Medical Tape
  • 3M 9960 Diagnostic Microfluidic Hydrophilic Film
  • 3M 9962 Diagnostic Microfluidic Hydrophilic Film
  • 3M 9984 Diagnostic Microfluidic Surfactant Free Fluid Transport Film
  • 3M 9969 Diagnostic Microfluidic Adhesive Transfer Medical Tape

The Crucial Role of Converters

While it’s important to use trusted materials in your products’ construction, it’s also equally vital to work with a trusted converting partner. Expertise in converting for medical and healthcare manufacturing ensures that your microfluidic devices deliver consistent and reliable performance, lot after lot.

Your full-service adhesive tape converter should work with advanced materials for microfluidic devices, including:

  • Bioassay compatible tapes for use in PCR, qPCR, and ELISA that are designed to minimize the potential for chemical and optical interference
  • Hydrophilic films for fluid transport including specialty coatings and materials that enable efficient flow of fluids through capillary channels
  • Films and specialty materials for solutions such as membranes, polyester films, coatings, engineered fluids, etc.
  • Spacer tapes with low build-up of residue to ensure the thickness of the material meets the specifications and requirements of your device to ensure capability with your chemistry
  • Porous membranes used for filtration
  • Electronic assembly tapes
  • Connectors

What does a world-class specialty converter, such as Strouse, bring to the table?

  • Quality Management System registered to ISO 9001: We insist on the highest level of consistency; only the best processes and procedures deliver tight-tolerance adhesive solutions required for medical devices and the FDA
  • 3M Preferred Converter of 3M Medical Materials and Technologies: We leverage our partnership with the global leader in adhesives; get samples of materials in the dimensions and format you need for testing

Ask a Stouse engineer about adhesive solutions for your design. We’ll help you deliver accurate and easy-to-use components for applications, including layered materials for biosensors, integrated consumables for lab-on-a-chip applications, diagnostic consumables, devices incorporating microfluidics, and much more.

The foundation of many microfluidic devices is converted adhesive tape that protects samples, transports fluids, and helps with accurate detection. The right component materials and manufacturing methods make that happen.

Learn more about the right materials by reading our Flexible Material Converting Q&A Guide, which answers common questions usually asked of adhesive converters. If you need immediate help with developing a microfluidic device, give Strouse a call today (800)-410-8273, or you can ask an engineer!

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Scott Chambers

Written by Scott Chambers

Strouse Business Development Manager