KTH’s Wouter van der Wijngaart.
KTH’s Wouter van der Wijngaart.

Researchers in the Department of Micro- and Nanosystems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden have developed a new way to shape and surface treat plastic components at the same time. The new method, which is reported in a paper in Advanced Material Interfaces, can reduce the cost of manufacturing medical devices such as diagnostic tools.

When the plastic components in ‘labs-on-a-chip’ and other diagnostic tools are manufactured today, they are first shaped by injection molding and thereafter surface treated to confer desirable surface properties. These surface properties can include, for example, affinity for water or water repellence, says Wouter van der Wijngaart, professor of micro and nanosystems at KTH, who developed the technique together with KTH researchers Gaspard Pardon and Tommy Haraldsson.

Patterning the surface properties of a component can be compared to treating a wooden surface with wax in order to make it water repellent. The new plastic manufacturing process developed by van der Wijngaart and his colleagues can simultaneously define both the structure and the surface properties of the plastic component in a single injection molding step.

“When we mold plastic using the new method, we simultaneously define the different surface properties it should have,” says van der Wijngaart. “Instead of needing to use several process steps, we now require only one. We needed to develop both a new plastic, and a new method to simultaneously structure and surface modify it.”

The technology came about from the continued development of the super plastic OSTEMER by Mercene Labs, a company spun off from KTH.

“The ‘lab-on-a-chip’ components that we can fabricate with our new injection molding technique are meant to handle small amounts of liquid, in medical applications,” explains van der Wijngaart. “Until now, such chips have been expensive, and this has been an obstacle for the more widespread use of such technology in health care. But if you can lower the production cost by half, hopefully the device price goes down as well, which facilitates diagnostic tools based on plastics and injection molding methods.”

The team adds that their research is currently at a fairly high technical level and that it is not yet clear how to simplify the injection molding process.

This story is adapted from material from KTH, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.