Electroforming for limitless copying in microfluidics

Electroforming: a technical service exclusive to DBM Medix, combining style, design and performance.

For our designers, electroforming means being able to produce electroforms that combine style, design and performance. For you, it’s the chance to benefit from a technology exclusive to DBM Medix, and our ability to make a metal copy of any part.


Principle of electroforming

From replication comes revolution

But what is electroforming? As an additive manufacturing process, electroforming involves the electrochemical deposition of metal layers on a substrate. This substrate is coated with a thin layer of conductive material (called mandrel), which may be nickel or gold. It is then immersed in an electrolytic bath containing metal ions, in which an electric current is applied. Gradually, the ions deposit on the substrate, forming a metallic layer.

Electroforming (Graphics)
Steps for manufacturing a mold insert by electroforming a silicon wafer

The special feature of this technique is that it can grow metal parts, atom by atom, up to several millimetres in size, with an unrivalled level of precision and surface quality, even for the smallest or most complex geometries.

Electroforms, the future of microfluidic systems

Once the metal layer has formed, the substrate is removed from the electrolytic bath. The resulting metal structure, called an electroform, is used to create high-volume, three-dimensional microfluidic systems in polymer or elastomer materials by hot embossing or injection molding. These systems act as channels for the passage of fluids, and have impressive applications in medical diagnostics, research and other fields requiring the fine handling of small volumes of liquids.

Electroforming, a DBM Medix speciality

A variety of electroforms for all materials

Electroforming and the DBM Group have a long history. For over 40 years, our subsidiary DBM Reflex has been manufacturing electroforms for optical components. His specialty? Nickel or nickel-cobalt inserts using processes comparable to LIGA (German for “Lithography, Galvanoformung, Abformung”). LIGA is a crucial process for the high-precision production of microscopic components, involving the electroforming of surfaces produced by microfabrication techniques (photolithography, dual-photon 3D printing, selective laser-induced etching (SLE ) or diamond machining ).

Electroformed insert
Electroformed insert
Electroformed wall thicknesses from 4 to 12 microns
Electroformed wall thicknesses from 4 to 12 microns
Copying a silicon wafer by electroforming
Copying a silicon wafer by electroforming

Silicon wafers with or without photoresist coating, glass, polymers or even metals: there are no limits when it comes to electroforming! If the surfaces are insulating, we deposit a thin conductive layer before the procedure (of the order of 50 nm). This is our solution for preserving the dimensions and shapes of microfluidic geometries.

Objective: high-volume production

As you can see, it’s all about precision and quality. What’s on our minds at all times? Ensure the chemical homogeneity and thickness of our microfluidic structures, and limit their distortion, so as not to disrupt laminar flow. To achieve this, we optimize the electroforming conditions of all our parts using COMSOL electroforming simulation software.

Rigor, precision, adaptability: these are definitely the strengths of electroforming. They are also the starting points for the realization of high-volume microfluidic component manufacturing, and surface functionalization for multidisciplinary needs.


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