Craft & Design

Michelle Khine’s lab at UC Irvine couldn’t afford the $100K equipment to make microfluidic chips, a sheet of material with tiny channels used for certain diagnostic tests, so she made her own with Shrinky Dinks. From the MIT Technology Review:

Racking her brain for a quick-and-dirty way to make microfluidic devices, Khine remembered her favorite childhood toy: Shrinky Dinks, large sheets of thin plastic that can be colored with paint or ink and then shrunk in a hot oven. “I thought if I could print out the [designs] at a certain resolution and then make them shrink, I could make channels the right size for micro­fluidics,” she says.

To test her idea, she whipped up a channel design in AutoCAD, printed it out on Shrinky Dink material using a laser printer, and stuck the result in a toaster oven. As the plastic shrank, the ink particles on its surface clumped together, forming tiny ridges. That was exactly the effect Khine wanted. When she poured a flexible polymer known as PDMS onto the surface of the cooled Shrinky Dink, the ink ridges created tiny channels in the surface of the polymer as it hardened. She pulled the PDMS away from the Shrinky Dink mold, and voilà: a finished microfluidic device that cost less than a fast-food meal.

[via BoingBoing]

36 thoughts on “Biomedical Lab Uses Shrinky Dinks Instead of $100K Diagnostic Chips

  1. I always love a good story about someone finding an alternative to an overpriced item. Plus a practical use for Shrinky Dinks! lol

  2. I wonder how large of a contributing factor to the sky-high R&D costs in many industries is simply the availability of capital.

  3. this s amazing..
    im imagining how the people who designed 100k$ equipment would have reacted to this..
    they could not have hard time than this..

  4. Shrinking dinks is an art, and she’s the art teacher. Please excuse me if I say wrong, English is not my first language.

  5. There are a lot of college and university students and faculty that knows on what has happened on campus. There have been a few changes on my campus, and signs up for months and articles in the (free) school newspaper and still a good portion of the students had no clue.

  6. But then does this mean that microfluidic diagnostic chips are a huge scam?
    If you can make one with shrinky dinks and some polymer goo, why on earth do they cost so much?

  7. Ok guys, It fantastic and she looks great. Can someone please comment on the actual fact: does this really work? I mean, if this works and microfluidic diagnostic chips can be made this way why doesn’t it rock the nation a little instead of appearing on some blog?

  8. You’ll notice that the article I linked to is in the MIT Technology Review, a reputable source for news in early-stage technological discoveries.

  9. The headline is completely misleading. The article does not say the chips cost $100K it says the EQUIPMENT to make the chips is $100,000.

  10. Those are great ideas; I use two or three already – esp. the one about encouragement – but I will try a couple of the others.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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