Microfluidics devices were initially based on non-polymeric materials like silicon or glass, manufactured in facilities developed for the semiconductor industry. New fabrication techniques that are completely based on polymer/plastic materials can lead to reducing fabrication costs and optimise time, including rapid prototyping methods for a new range of products.
A new generation of 3D micro and nano structured and/or injection moulded polymeric or ceramic microfluidic MEMS products are targeted. Applications may include MEMS for nozzles or filters, sensor applications, lab-on-chip systems, printed biochemical materials, soft substrates etc., and open for new applications, including disposables where production cost need to be kept to a minimum. The adoption of environment friendly material solutions may also be explored (e.g. biodegradable materials, materials from renewable resources, reusable/recyclable materials).
While typical features for the mentioned applications may be larger than leading edge semiconductor processes, the required feature sizes are nonetheless significantly smaller than what is available with current standard printing and injection moulding techniques i.e. micro- and nano-fabrication capabilities are required.
The proposed pilot lines should address the development, upscaling and demonstration in relevant industrial environments.
They should use existing pilot lines as a starting point for development, incorporating new materials and methods and/or instrumentation with real time characterization for measurement, analysis and monitoring at the nanoscale to characterise relevant materials, process properties and product features.
The aim is to increase the level of robustness and repeatability of such industrial processes; to optimise and evaluate the increased performance of production lines in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness; and finally to assess the functionality and performance of the new materials/products.
Proposals should address the complete research-development-innovation cycle and obstacles remaining for industrial application, and involve a number of relevant materials producers and users, also considering the needs of SMEs.
Non-technological aspects key for the marketing of such products (e.g. standardization, regulatory issues, user acceptance, HSE aspects, LCA) need to be considered.
Applications may fall within areas such as:
The increased performances of the production lines in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness should be demonstrated together with the relative improved functionality and performance of the resulting products.
SME needs should be catered for, e.g. through a coordinated network of pilot line, test and validation services, in order to prepare for management decisions to progress to the next step of new technology deployment, i.e. installation of industrial pilot lines and enter the commercialization stage.
Activities are expected to focus on Technology Readiness Levels 4 to 6, and target Technology Readiness Level 7. This topic addresses cross-KET activities.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 5 and 8 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
The action should allow for a new generation of MEMS products.
The scaled up production lines for 3D micro and nano printing and/or injection moulding in combination with the use of polymers and new micro- and nano-fabrication capabilities is expected to increase cost-effectiveness and robustness of the process and resulting products.
Direct benefit to the involved industries should be demonstrated in the form of reduced costs and full consideration of environmental and safety legislation.
Enhanced manufacturing capacities in Europe and/or enhanced market opportunities for European enterprises. These impacts should be addressed in particular in the outline of the business case and exploitation strategy to be submitted with the proposal. The expected content of this outline is further detailed in the LEIT introduction, section 6.
Impact should be presented at three levels:
The impact will also be improved by a contribution to training and knowledge dissemination for building an educated workforce.
Overall the action is expected to help driving the demand in Europe as well as support the penetration of new markets worldwide, also considering the contributions to an improved quality of life from the resulting products (e.g. lab-on-chip, filters and sensors for medical or other applications), ultimately contributing to a significant growth of quality jobs.
This should include clear benefits to manufacturers, including SMEs, and new entrants into the market should be expected.