Prof Michael Higgins gears up to speak at UOW’s Big Ideas Festival
Oct 15 2019
A couple of our ACES researchers from our University of Tasmania (UTAS) node have been busy brewing up an exciting new venture. ACES Chief Investigator Brett Paul and Early Career Researcher Vipul Gupta have teamed up to create 3MADe, an 3D printing initiative to bridge the gap between project requirements and the commercially available analytical devices.
We caught up with Vipul while he visited us at our ACES headquarters in Wollongong to find out more.
What exactly is 3D MADe?
3D MADe is an initiative developed at the University of Tasmania by myself and ACES Chief Investigator Brett Paul, building on the expertise of various people from ACES and the Australian Centre for Research on Separation Science (ACROSS). We founded 3D MADe to facilitate researchers in developing bespoke analytical devices for their projects.
Researchers all over the world are restricted to the use of limited off-the-shelf analytical components. These components can only offer simple microfluidic architectures, which severely restrain their use in realising new break-throughs. 3D MADe provides an opportunity for the researchers to design and develop unique three-dimensionally complex microfluidic components that are specifically tailored to meet their project ideas.
Through this venture, we endeavour to enable researchers to think outside the small box of conventional analytical devices and allow them to develop analytical devices around their project ideas and not vice-versa.
How and when did the idea and opportunity come about?
The idea for this venture was in the works for a few years before it officially started in mid-2019 with the help of an UTAS DVCR grant.
During the past four to five years of the Electrofluidics and Diagnostics (EFD) theme projects, we have been developing new analytical devices to address some of the current and high-interest problems in the field. Therefore, we always envision the use of these devices by other laboratories. Moreover, our presentation of these works in national and international conferences usually resulted in the request from audience members to get access to these devices. So we realised that our unique selling point not only lied in developed components but also in the expertise that we developed over the years in addressing different microfluidic challenges using 3D printing.
That all being said, last year, when I finished my PhD, we started exploring the idea of establishing an online platform where researchers from anywhere in the world can easily access these components and our expertise to push some boundaries in their respective fields of study and then 3D MADe was born.
You’re a postdoctoral research fellow with ACES but can you explain your background and how it helped you shape 3D MADe?
I have an interdisciplinary background in the fields of material science, analytical chemistry, 3D printing, computational modelling, and pharmaceutical sciences.
My background enabled me to recognise and swiftly transition fundamental scientific innovations into end-user products, which forms the core principle of 3D MADe. This interdisciplinary background has allowed me to brainstorm with researchers from different disciplines and has provided me with an opportunity to export scientific advancements from one field to solve a problem in another. A significant portion of the 3D MADe business model is based on consultation, where an interdisciplinary background is indispensable.
3D MADe stands for 3D Printed Miniaturised Analytical Devices. How did you come up with the name?
We were looking for a name that could summarise the idea about our products, which are compact, portable, and high-performance analytical devices that are 3D printed. We wanted its acronym to indicate that we are in the 3D printing field and preferably forms a word that can be easily remembered. After a few weeks of scribbling different names and their acronyms, we landed on the use of 3D Printed Miniaturised Analytical Devices as the name and used their 3D, M, A, and De to make the acronym 3D MADe.
How has business been so far?
The business is in its infancy. We are testing the market, exploring new avenues, and overcoming different challenges. However, even without any paid promotions, we have been able to attract an international audience from Ireland, USA, and Australia. The major portion of the sales to date have been from our consultation based stream, where we actively work with the researches who are struggling with the procurement or development of high-performance analytical devices for their projects.
Can you talk about 3D MADe from a translational aspect?
I believe 3D MADe is an example of a slightly unconventional way of translating academic research, where we don’t invest enormous time and money in patenting the technology and further waiting for their commercialisation. Instead, we use modern advancements in online shopping and video conferencing to disseminate the technology more effectively. This route focuses on providing broader access to our expertise rather than a single product. It is a marriage between the product and services sector.
Our aim is to help researchers in overcoming the boundaries imposed on them by conventional manufacturing techniques and off-the-shelf analytical components. To do this, we provide them with a library of new and fully customisable high-performance analytical devices and offer them consultation on developing new devices tailored towards their project requirements.
What is the vision for 3D MADe and where do you see it going in the future?
The vision for 3D MADe is to enable researchers to afford the freedom of thinking freely when it comes to the use of microfluidic and analytical devices. We want to help them in realising their various groundbreaking ideas, which were previously deemed impossible by the two-dimensionally limited microfluidic devices.
Do you have any plans for 3D MADe to collaborate with anyone?
We are working in an interdisciplinary field, which often requires collaboration from various sectors of research, development and commercialisation. We are always open for collaborations, especially for the ones that can lead to the further advancement of the technology and its outreach.
Thanks for your time, Vipul. Exciting times ahead for yourself, Brett and 3D MADe.
Find more information on the 3D MADe website.