Adhesive Applications

The Benefits of Tape in Microfluidic Devices: Tape’s New “Role” in Health Care

When you think of tape in health care, the scenario that comes to mind immediately is the image of taping up a broken bone or holding a splint. But adhesive tapes play a huge role in the new diagnostic processes for health care, especially in the form of microfluidics. 

The last time you saw a doctor in person, he or she may have barely looked up from the laptop. Instead, your physician was extremely focused on the data on a computer screen, which might have contained the results of a blood draw from a few days ago.
It’s a long way from health care of yesteryear, when both the doctor and patient’s physical presence is required to make a diagnosis.  The reality is, doctors are doing the same things they have been doing for centuries: looking at the information presented to them, diagnosing, then prescribing a plan of action. The only difference is where the data comes from.

Microfluidic devices are a revolutionary technology that can be used to manipulate extremely small amounts of liquid, usually measured in nanoliters (a liter holds 1,000,000,000 nanoliters) or picolitres (one liter holds 1,000,000,000,000 picolitres). Both are truly less than a drop in a bucket.

To look at something that small, you need a miniature tool, like a microfluidic device. They enable researchers to analyze and process tiny volumes of liquids with great precision using a tool that has channels and pathways for the fluid flow. Those channels and pathways also have to be very small. That’s where tape comes in.

How Does Tape Work?
One of the most popular methods for fabricating microfluidic devices is tape lamination. This process involves the use of adhesive tapes applied to layers of plastic to form a seal or channel between them.

First, two layers of plastic are placed together and aligned precisely so that the desired channels can be formed. Next, adhesive tape is applied directly onto the plastic layers in order to create the necessary seal or channel between them. Depending on the size and complexity of the design, multiple strips of tape or layers can be applied in order to ensure complete coverage and maximum reliability. Finally, any residual air bubbles are removed before sealing up the device completely.

Speed to Market, Speed to Manufacture
The lamination approach is an ideal choice for engineers looking to quickly prototype new designs or develop new products without sacrificing reliability or quality-of-life features associated with traditional fabrication methods like welding or soldering components together manually by hand. By utilizing adhesive tapes in their projects, engineers can save time and money.

Because it is so easy to apply and remove tape from surfaces without causing any damage or leaving behind any residue, it is also much faster than traditional fabrication techniques which often require complicated processes such as lamination or gluing where multiple steps need to be performed precisely in order to achieve the desired result.

Why Tape?
Adhesive Tape has become a popular choice for microfluidic device fabrication because of its strong bond that ensures the channels created in the device will not leak or fail. Tape also offers several advantages over other materials:

  • Cost- Relative to other options, tape is inexpensive. This is especially critical in the prototyping and product development phases of microfluidic device manufacturing. Tape is much cheaper than machining or laser cutting techniques which require expensive equipment and specialized labor costs associated with setup and operation. 
  • Customization- Microfluidic devices and the channels in which the liquid must flow through are specific to the kinds of testing. Tape can be laminated in multiple layers to suit specific needs. 
  • Flexibility- Tape’s ability to conform to different shapes ensures it can meet the demands of the microfluidic tray.
  • Chemical resistance-Silicone adhesive tapes such as Adhesive Application’s S1001 offer superior chemical resistance which is critical in microfluidic applications.
  • Temperature resistance- 0. Adhesive tapes such as the S1001 perform in great temperature extremes from -100F to 500F.  

Which Tape is Best for Microfluidics?

The most common type of tape used in microfluidic device construction is double-sided adhesive tape. This type of tape has two layers, one side with an adhesive coating and the other side with a release liner.  The release liner prevents the adhesive from sticking to itself before use, allowing for easy application when needed. Double-sided tapes are ideal for constructing microfluidic devices since they provide a strong bond between two surfaces while still allowing them to be easily separated when necessary. 

Additionally, double-sided tapes have excellent flexibility and conformability, which makes them perfect for creating complex shapes and structures that may be difficult to replicate using other materials. This makes them particularly useful for creating channels, reservoirs, and pumps within a device. Furthermore, because these tapes can adhere to many different materials such as glass or plastic, they can also be used to build multi-layer devices with multiple components made from different materials.

In conclusion, tape plays an integral role in the construction process of microfluidic devices. The low cost relative to other fabrication techniques as well as its excellent flexibility and conformability allows it to create complex shapes quickly without sacrificing performance quality. It compares favorably to more traditional manufacturing processes like welding or soldering, which may damage delicate components during assembly due to excessive heat exposure or chemical interaction during manufacturing processes. Ultimately, tape’s versatility makes it ideal for building robust, reliable, yet cost-effective microfluidic devices. As technology advances, we will continue seeing new ways in which engineers are leveraging this versatile material into more innovative designs. Tape has a new “role” in healthcare!