Access to healthcare and treatment and also diagnostic facilities can be difficult in remote regions. From rural areas to underdeveloped countries, not everyone lives in an area where a doctor or hospital can be reached in a reasonable amount of time. And delay in access to healthcare can lead to further complications when it comes to diagnosis and eventual treatment.
Development of a low cost test that combines smartphones and 3D printing is underway by a team of researchers from Kansas State University. The 3D printed auto-mixing chip will enable rapid smartphone diagnosis of anemia, and will potentially lead to broader uses, according to a new paper published by the team.
Low-cost, smartphone-based, 3D-printed POC microfluidic chip (smartphone iPOC3D system) for rapid diagnosis of anemia in 60 s. Image via Biomicrofluidics/Kansas State University.
The 3D printed auto-mixing chip developed integrates 3D design and 3D printing of microfluidic point-of-care (POC) device with smartphone-based disease diagnosis in one process as a stand-alone system. This could have further positive implications in the future, with the technology being adaptable for a number of other blood-based tests.
Design of three microfluidic mixers: (a) SAR, (b) serpentine channel, and (c) ring-shaped channel. Channel diameter was ∼500 μm. (d) 3D CFD simulation of blood mixing profile in three micromixers: Red flow is blood mixed with aqueous solution (blue); green color indicates complete mixing. (e) Experimental image of 3D printed planner micromixer showing incomplete mixing under capillary force using colored dye solutions. (f) Experimental image of 3D printed, 3D-structured micromixer showing efficient mixing within 1 s using colored dye solutions. Image via Biomicrofluidics/Kansas State University.
The device was modeled on the AutoCAD 360 app and printed on D3 ProJet 1200 using VisiJet®FTX Clear resin. It enables the detection of hemoglobin levels in blood, which helps identify iron deficiency that leads to anemia.
The test can be done in just 1 second, with the auto-mixing of reagents with blood via capillary eliminating the need for external pumps. Testing the device with a training set of patients consistently presented the same levels of diagnostic sensitivity and specificity as one would find with standard clinical machines.
Characterization of 3D printing for fabricating microfluidic mixers: (a) SAR microfluidic mixer, (b) 3D ring-shaped micromixer, (c) and serpentine micromixer. Channel diameter is ∼500 μm. SEM imaging was used to characterize variable 3D-printed microstructures: (d) posts in curved microfluidic channel, (e) pyramid post arrays, (f) microwells, and (g) a D-shaped hollow microchannel. Scale bar: 200 μm. (h) The bonded layer of a 3D-printed open channel with a glass slide. Image via Biomicrofluidics/Kansas State University.
This device is incredibly low cost, with each test’s estimated cost being just 50 cents. Considering the components of this device other than a smartphone are 3D printed, it can be easily adopted and help bring mobile diagnostic services to where they are needed most.
3D printing or Additive manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. 3D printing is also considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling (subtractive processes).
A 3D printer is a limited type of industrial robot that is capable of carrying out an additive process under computer control.
While 3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s, it was not until the early 2010s that the printers became widely available commercially. The first working 3D printer was created in 1984 by Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. Since the start of the 21st century there has been a large growth in the sales of these machines, and their price has dropped substantially. According to Wohlers Associates, a consultancy, the market for 3D printers and services was worth $2.2 billion worldwide in 2012, up 29% from 2011.[
The 3D printing technology is used for both prototyping and distributed manufacturing with applications in architecture, construction (AEC), industrial design, automotive, aerospace, military, engineering, civil engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech (human tissue replacement), fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, geographic information systems, food, and many other fields. One study has found that open source 3D printing could become a mass market item because domestic 3D printers can offset their capital costs by enabling consumers to avoid costs associated with purchasing common household objects.
3D Printable Models
3D printable models may be created with a computer aided design package or via 3D scanner. The manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is a process of analyzing and collecting data of real object; its shape and appearance and builds digital, three dimensional models.