InstantLabs’ Hunter Real-Time PCR Instrument provides foodborne pathogen results within hours of sample collection, and its compact design and easy-to-use interface allows for point-of-need use. The prior cartridge had the capacity to hold 4 samples plus a positive and negative control at one time for PCR processing and detection. InstantLabs requested that Key Tech more than double the sample capacity, while decreasing cartridge part count and without making any changes to the Hunter instrument.
It is essential for a cartridge to be cost-effective to manufacture and assemble; with 26 components and a laborious assembly procedure that resulted in a significant number of wasted components, the Hunter’s cartridge was less than ideal. Key Tech started from scratch to redesign this cartridge, examining the assembly process and brainstorming on different potential plastic bonding methods. Various sample well geometries were considered for each method, and considering the expected cost and ease of assembly, the team down-selected to a laser-welded design. The final microfluidic geometry was developed experimentally through a series of quick prototypes which were tested for filling and sealing reliability. Key Tech designers created a label design and holding fixture to ensure the customer’s experience during sample insertion is easy and fool-proof.
The new cartridge increases sample capacity to 10 per cartridge, and decreases the part count to 4 (including the label). The cartridge design was developed in collaboration with a contract manufacturer to ensure it can be easily assembled with just one alignment fixture. The redesigned cartridge is now in production.