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PCBD-Jan2017

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54 The PCB Design Magazine • January 2017 gration manageable, that's one part, but then our tools are easy to learn, simple to install, and this shortens the ramp-up phase. Then there's the training aspect, and this is one area we are expanding on right now, in order to offer different flavors of training. A designer could be trained in our facilities, an- other could be trained on-site, but then a lot of companies say, "I can't afford to have my team gone for one week for training. There are travel expenses, hotel costs, and they don't work on their projects. Make it easier for them to get trained!" We need to offer both online training and on-demand training as well. All these aspects play into this philosophy of "easy to use, easy to deploy." I think it's our responsibility to low- er the bar and make it simple to move across. There are a lot of people who want to move. People are highly interested in our design en- vironment and what we provide. It is also our responsibility to enable them to do a realistic risk assessment of the transition and make the process as straightforward for them as possible. Matties: Rainer, I certainly appreciate your time today. It's been great to sit down with an expert. Asfalg: It was great talking to you. PCBDESIGN THE EVOLUTION OF PCB DESIGN AND DESIGNERS Swapping delicate microscopic flow valves for a universal modular valve system has enabled A*STAR researchers to dramatically decrease the cost and complex- ity of microfluidic diag- nostic chips—business card-sized devices that can analyse blood on the spot for a range of dis- ease biomarkers. "Microfluidic chips are advancing point-of-care diagnosis for many diseases," says Alicia Toh from A*STAR's Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech). "Inside these chips, tiny microvalves precisely direct microlitres of fluid through a series of microchan- nels for automated analysis. However, integrating microvalves into the microchannels is complex and highly susceptible to fabrication defects, which translates into a higher cost per device." Toh and her colleagues Zhiping Wang and Zhenfeng Wang addressed the problem by mov- ing the microvalves off the main microfluidic chip, and created a modular valve that is fitted to the surface of the chip after fabrication. The team demonstrated that their modular valves could precisely manipulate chemical concentrations through fluidic routing, which is critical in many advance diagnostic ap- plications. "By mass producing these microvalve mod- ules separate from the microfluidic chip and testing valve function prior to chip integration, we can achieve much lower defect rates, which boosts yields and results in a much lower cost per device," says Toh. "This technology will reduce waste and help contribute to sustainable manu- facturing practices for microfluidic chips." Getting the valve design right, however, was complicated. The team used state-of-the-art soft- ware to predict the microscopic interactions be- tween the flexible elastomeric silicone membrane and the fluid in the microchannel. Using materials that are compatible with the latest microfluidics technologies was also a big constraint. Toh and her team are now exploring the pro- duction of microvalve modules using a variety of novel materials. "Greater adoption of microfluidic technology will mean that we could see our mod- ular microvalves being used in a wide spectrum of applications," she says. A Modular Valve Simplifies Diagnostic Chip Fabrication

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