micro parts to market... faster

Micro factories are becoming a reality

2/25/15     Much ado is being talked about in the micro world about micro factories.  One such system was recently seen as a fully functioning cell that fit in a briefcase.  These systems, small and compact all work on the premise of AVOIDING handling the micro parts too often or not at all.  Micro parts that are created and put down in a bin, bowl, guide, or nest need to be picked up again, re-oriented and re-introduced to the mating component or components next in line for the assembly.

Each step that requires a micro part to be picked up and put back down adds error and given that they are micro parts, there isn’t much room for error.  (This incremental error can be studied in a tolerance analysis which can be discussed on a project to project basis)

A few options exist to avoid or at least minimize micro part handling in a micro assembly:
1. Create a micro factory or automation cell with precise and miniaturized machines that enable ONE holding chuck or end-of-arm tool  that interfaces with mechanical, electronic, and optical sensors to create a final micro assembly all within the space inside a cereal box.
2. Combine part to part geometry (stealing from Peter to pay Paul) in as few steps as possible (i.e.valve/pump combinations, onboard valve/chip combinations, needle/sheath combinations).


There was a recent article in Pharma iQ that refers to single use disposable medical and pharmaceutical devices that require cleanliness, precision, and cost- all factors in a fully integrated automation system.

Article exerpt:
Entirely disposable upstream processes that can support commercial-scale production are a reality and companies are beginning to create more cost effective, single use, modular facilities. Companies are also modifying their infrastructure to support disposables instead of designing all new facilities, by using modular skid based or disposable approaches.Pharma iQ did a study to see how many companies will be retrofitting their existing facilities and 46% of them expect to see a 100% disposable facility in operation by 2018!
In 2010 Shire finished it’s Lexington, MA fully disposable bioprocessing facility. They took advantage of the many benefits associated with this type of facility, including reduced capital investment in facility and equipment, faster campaign turn around time, eliminated cleaning requirements, reduced time to get facility up and running and decreased the risk of product contamination. These savings make a fully disposable facility well worth while, but there are some items that need to worked out, like integrating all the bioprocessing systems required for GMP production.
Fully SUS bioprocessing facilities will continue to grow and become the norm as downstream equipment is developed and systems, connectivitiy and process design are integrated better. It is forecasted that we will start to see hybrid facilities forming and will transform into fully functional SUS facilities in the near future.

Micro Bio-degradable Electronics

2/18/15     The use of bioresorbable materials in the medical device sector is growing fast. Due to the advances in material technology and design and manufacturing techniques, resorbable devices are used throughout healthcare, especially in the area of orthopedics, controlled drug delivery, and vascular closure devices.

Typically the devices made from such materials are inert, such as screws and plates used in reconstructive surgery. MES has been and is involved in numerous projects using innovative bioresorbable materials that cater for an array of medical applications.

In the medical area, there are a number of developments looking at ways in which power can be added to implantable resorbable medical devices, opening up the potential for implantable or ingested medical devices that can undertake therapeutic or diagnostic functions, and once the desired affect or results have been achieved, resorb into the body.

Such devices fit into a broader area of technology known in some quarters as “transient electronics”, which also has applications in the areas of environmental monitors and consumer devices. Using such technology, environmental monitors have the ability to dissolve and disappear once they have performed their function in such situations as chemical spills, oil spills etc…, thereby reducing environmental impact. In the area of consumer products, it is the effect that transient electronic components can have on the environmental fall out from frequently replaced products like mobile phones and personal electronic devices that has enormous potential.

MES is delighted to have been given permission to repost an extremely important article published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom in the Journal of Materials Chemistry “B”, concerning biodegradable electronics using current sources fabricated from edible materials.

The move towards the use of edible materials which have conductive properties and which can biodegrade once ingested into the body opens up an array of new potential developments in treatment and diagnosis.

What differentiates these technologies from other transient electronic applications is the material used. Most research to date has been in the development of transient electronic components that are made from extremely small but high-performance electronic systems that are made from thin silicon sheets. These sheets are in fact so thin, that they will completely dissolve in-vivo, along with soluble electronic elements made from magnesium and magnesium oxide. The focus of research in this area is around ensuring a predictable rate of degradation to cater for different applications ranging from a few days to a number of months, which is achieved through encapsulating devices in different amounts of silk.

But the focus of the Royal Society of Chemistry article is in the specific area of active medical implants, using electrochemical electronic power sources that are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in normal diets. As such, the focus is on edible electrical sources that can power up medical devices that are taken by mouth and not implanted, i.e. non-invasive devices.

Their specific area of use would be in sensors that analyze gastric function, and also in novel drug delivery, and they are designed to deploy and power up when ingested.  The article indicates how such technology can potentially be used for non-invasive sensing and tissue simulation.

MES believes that the developments in the area of transient electronic devices in general and edible transient electronic devices in particular will open up the possibility of numerous innovative medical devices and combination devices, and we will report on any advances in this area that have immediate commercial potential.



Journal of Materials Chemistry B

Self-deployable current sources fabricated from edible materials
Young Jo Kim, Sang-Eun Chun, Jay Whitacreab and   Christopher J. Bettinger


blog - 021815 bioresorbable electronics


Flexible biodegradable electronics have the potential to serve as the centerpiece for temporary electronically active medical implants. Biodegradable electronics may exhibit many advantages over traditional chronic implants. Two important long-term goals for biodegradable electronics are (1) supplying sufficient power and (2) reducing the invasiveness of device deployment. Edible electronic devices are capable of addressing both challenges. Here, we introduce electrochemical electronic power sources that are compatible with non-invasive deployment strategies and are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in common diets. The current sources developed herein are powered by onboard sodium ion electrochemical cells. Potentials up to 0.6 V and currents in the range of 5–20 μA can be generated routinely. These devices could serve as an enabling platform technology for edible electronics used in non-invasive sensing and stimulation of tissues within the human body.

Microfluidic Device System Market Forecast 2013-2019

2/10/15     Dublin Research and Markets has released a microfluidic device system market forecast. The global microfluidic device market was valued at $1,531.2M USD in 2013. It is likely to grow at a CAGR of 22.8% during 2013 to 2019 to reach USD $5,246.4M in 2019.
“Microfluidics is an evolving scientific field with numerous analytical applications and commercial potential. Globally, the microfluidic device market is witnessing significant growth due to increasing R&D investment in pharmaceuticals, life science and rising point of care testing demand. New trends in healthcare, such as healthcare at home, supports point of care testing (POCT) as the most efficient and effective delivery of healthcare.”
“North America was valued at $644.5M in 2013 and is expected to reach $2,095.5M in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 21.7% from 2013 to 2019. In-vitro diagnostics microfluidic device market was valued at $949.6M in 2013 and is expected to reach $3,317.4M in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 23.2% from 2013 to 2019.”

Micro machining surfaces close up
Microfluidics is also being used in other areas like chemical micro reactor, sugar testers, drug screening, microprocessor cooling and micro fuel cells. The rising demand for miniaturization of medical and pharma products are the driving force behind this fast growing technology. Micro Engineering Solutions has been in the forefront of this rapidly growing technology and we are very proud of the advancements we have made with our partners in this field. Review our Projects and Micro Services pages for more details.

Micro advances in how we monitor and control diabetes

2/4/15    Micro advances is combating the uncomfortable needle pricking used to control diabetes. Diabetes affects over 29 million people in the United States and that number keeps increasing at a rate of 1.7 million new diagnoses per year. People who have diabetes have to monitor their glucose levels multiple times a day. This involves pricking the skin with a needle to release a drop of blood to be tested on a glucose monitor. Then an insulin shot has to be administered. That results in numerous needles pricking the skin each and every day.

Hope is on the way! There are many studies being done on how to decrease the use of needles to regulate this disease. Scientists at the University of CA have developed and tested a tiny stick-on temporary tattoo that painlessly extracts glucose and monitors its levels in the body. It works by gently drawing glucose from between cells to the surface of the skin where it can be measured by sensors. Each tattoo-like device lasts about a day and has been tested on humans. Most test patients didn’t notice it was there and a few people mentioned a a tingling sensation that lasted a couple seconds.

blog - 020415 needle 1

This device would make pricking the skin to draw blood obsolete and as an added bonus it’s very inexpensive, costing just a few cents a piece.
It is currently in a proof-of-concept stage but is hoped to replace finger pricking and make diabetics monitoring process less painful. At this stage the tattoo can not provide a numerical readout so the team is working on developing a bluetooth instrument that would send this info to a doctor or another device.
Another interesting development in the diabetes field is how the insulin is being administered into the body. Instead of injecting it with a needle, researchers at Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science are using shockwaves to administer the insulin. They have developed a microcapsule drug delivery mechanism using micro-shockwaves. These shockwaves are produced externally using a handheld generator placed near the microcapsule. The release profile of the medicine upon initiation of shockwaves can be sped up or slowed down by changing the pH in the microcapsule. The device does not touch the body to trigger the release of the drug. Even though a needle does still need to be used to place the microcapsule in the subcutaneous layer of the skin, the use of multiple needles per day would diminish substantially.

Todays cutting edge medical advances are fascinating to learn about. We have worked on research projects in the insulin field and are excited to be a part of this journey!