Rapid Prototyping of Thermoplastic Microfluidic Devices

  • Richard Novak
  • Carlos F. Ng
  • Donald E. Ingber
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1771)


Microfluidic systems can be applied to develop unique tools for cell culture, low-cost diagnostics, and precision experimentation by leveraging microscale fluid flow. As the field has expanded and matured, there is a need for rapid prototyping that is both accessible to most research groups and can readily translate toward scalable commercial manufacturing. Here, we describe a protocol that incorporates rapid computer numerical control (CNC) milling of positive molds, casting of a negative high-durometer silicone mold, and hot embossing to produce microfluidic devices composed of virtually any thermoplastic material. The method bypasses the need for high-precision machining of the bonding surfaces by using a cast acrylic stock and only milling channels, thus expanding this protocol to any CNC platform This technique represents a versatile, high-fidelity prototyping method that enables fast turnaround of prototype devices in a standard laboratory setting, while offering scalability for commercial manufacturing.

Key words

Microfabrication Hot embossing Rapid prototyping Thermoplastics Mold fabrication Microfluidics 



This research was sponsored by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under Cooperative Agreement W911NF-12-2-0036, FDA grant HHSF223201310079C, and NIH grants R01 EB020004-01 and 1UG3HL141797-01. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Food and Drug Administration, or the U.S. Government.

Competing financial interests

D.E.I. is a founder and holds equity in Emulate Inc., and he chairs its scientific advisory board.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Novak
    • 1
  • Carlos F. Ng
    • 1
  • Donald E. Ingber
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied SciencesCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Vascular Biology Program, Department of SurgeryBoston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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