Philadelphia, PA – Miniaturization is the practice of enabling products to deliver greater functionality from a form that utilizes less space, and that is often simpler to operate. Historically, miniaturization has allowed designers to reach scales of functionality or performance that would not have been possible in a standard configuration. In addition, smaller instruments require fewer materials and less energy to manufacture and transport, minimizing their environmental impact and often making them more cost-effective.
All of these benefits build a clear case for the miniaturization of analytical instruments, and there are increasing efforts to make them more portable and affordable today.
In addition to the intrinsic benefits of miniaturization, specific end-market demands are further fueling interest in more compact and functional analytical instruments. More portable devices can expand analysis of water sources to make certain they are potable and clean. They help to provide remote populations with access to healthcare through point-of-care diagnostics. Miniaturized analytical instruments offer more versatile capabilities for homeland security and counterfeit detection. Further, small, portable instruments are more easily powered by renewable energy sources such as solar. With the incorporation of wireless technologies, these instruments can communicate remotely with experts far away from their point of use.
There are several ways to miniaturize analytical instruments, but the Holy Grail is the so-called lab on a chip (LOC). These devices integrate one or more laboratory functions on a single chip measuring between millimeters to a few square centimeters in size. Although LOC applications exist, opportunities for expansive growth remain. Before this can happen, however, incremental developments are necessary to make the technology more viable. Cross pollinating ideas from technological breakthroughs in other areas, such as consumer electronics, may supplement the development efforts for these incremental steps.
- Miniaturization begins with discrete parts and components. This is evident with the design of every next-generation smart phone. Smaller components allow for “compaction” of the product that, in turn, allows addition of more features in an equivalent form factor.
- Integrating functions enables removal of redundant parts. Again, in the case of consumer devices, touch screen technology used in smart phones and tablets combined display and controls into a single part. Similarly, these devices integrated data logger and analytical operations to eliminate the need for standalone processors.
- Developments in automation that have supported miniaturization of consumer electronics and medical devices will allow more innovative handling and testing of smaller parts for analytical instrumentation.
- Modularization of product designs enables separation of discrete components that can then be independently miniaturized and integrated to yield a smaller footprint.
- Active alignment concepts used to build camera modules could help miniaturize and simplify the complex optics used in analytical instruments.
A panel discussion on this topic will be presented at Pittcon by Girish Wable, Technical Project Manager & Daniel Gamota, Director of Advanced Technology, Advanced Technology, Jabil Inc.
Jabil is inviting interested stakeholders to discuss manufacturing innovation topics such as miniaturization, electronics integration or supply chain leverage at the session on manufacturing innovation at PITTCON 2013, on Monday, March 18, 2013 from 1:30pm to 3:30pm at the Marriott Hotel, Conference room #307.