CentriCell Design – 2005

CentriCell

The goal of this project was to create an automated cell handling system for Molecular Devices next generation high throughput electrophysiology piece of equipment.  I was the only engineer working on this aspect of the project, which covered maintaining the health of live cells suspended in a media bath, concentrating the cells while exchanging the media they are suspended in.

At the time we first worked with the idea of using a traditional centrifuge to concentrate the cells.  This design took up considerable real estate …so we pushed the boundaries, and I came up with a new, innovative centrifuge design to achieve the same result in a fraction of the footprint.  With this new centrifuge, a new cell concentration and resuspension process was also developed.  Both this process and centrifuge are currently being patented by Molecular Devices.

This project was one of the most rewarding in my career.  I quickly prototyped a system to validate initial designs by heading to our machine shop, creating a custom 80/20 frame to mount an old, abandoned lathe vertically as my test bed.  I then created a test centrifuge with a local machine shop, and validated the overall concept.

Once validated, I worked quickly on a more polished prototype which included custom centrifuge parts with a unique quick release mechanism, and a custom fluidics manifold from Lee Valve.  I worked closely with an Electrical Engineer to create a driver board for our custom manifold, and then I wrote a basic Labview code to control this manifold, as well as a DC servo motor (through a motor contoller) and a syringe pump.

This was all done under a tight timeline, such that I could present the working prototype to our leadership team.  This presentation generated a lot of excitement within the company.

The centricell is currently sold as an option on the IonWorks Barracuda System.

Tools used:

  • SolidWorks 2008
  • PDMWorks
  • Excel
  • Lathe, CNC, shop
  • Labview