The Microfluidic Trainer: Design, Fabrication and Validation of a Tool for Testing and Improving Manual Skills

Francesco Costa, Luigi Falzetti, Nicola Baldini, Sofia Avnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microfluidic principles have been widely applied for more than 30 years to solve biological and micro-electromechanical problems. Despite the numerous advantages, microfluidic devices are difficult to manage as their handling comes with several technical challenges. We developed a new portable tool, the microfluidic trainer (MT), that assesses the operator handling skills and that may be used for maintaining or improving the ability to inject fluid in the inlet of microfluidic devices for in vitro cell culture applications. After several tests, we optimized the MT tester cell to reproduce the real technical challenges of a microfluidic device. In addition to an exercise path, we included an overfilling indicator and a correct infilling indicator at the inlet (control path). We manufactured the MT by engraving a 3 mm-high sheet of methacrylate with 60W CO2 laser plotter to create multiple capillary paths. We validated the device by enrolling 21 volunteers (median age 33) to fill both the MT and a commercial microfluidic device. The success rate obtained with MT significantly correlated with those of a commercial microfluidic culture plate, and its 30 min-continuous use for three times significantly improved the performance. Overall, our data demonstrate that MT is a valid assessment tool of individual performances in using microfluidic devices and may represent a low-cost solution to training, improve or warm up microfluidic handling skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 19 2020


  • basic research
  • education
  • handling skills
  • in vitro techniques


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