Software in Microfluidics
Software in Microfluidics
What is software in microfluidics?
Software is widely defined as a set of computer programs, libraries and data that tell the computer how to work. A user can usually interact with a software though a Graphical User Interface or GUI, whose content is updated by the software’s engine.
Being a leader in microfluidics instrumentation, our software tools are mostly dedicated to controlling our microfluidics instruments, allowing for remote instruments’ control and sensor’ data logging.
How is microfluidic instrumentation software typically structured?
Microfluidic instrumentation software communicates with one or several instruments; this is achieved using communication buses/protocols. As mentioned above, it is mainly composed of a GUI and an Engine. In the case of microfluidic instrumentation software, the whole control chain is made of the following components:
1. The microfluidic instrument itself
A microfluidic instrument is made of hardware – mechanical, pneumatic and/or electronic… – parts locally controlled by the instrument’s internal software, also known as firmware. Most of the instruments, even standalone basic sensors now use firmware. The instrument’s design, including the firmware is made by the microfluidic instrument producer.
2. The software’s communication link between the microfluidic instrument and the computer
The communication link between the microfluidic instrument and the computer that controls is usually composed of an electrical cable; data is exchanged using electrical signal, using some communication protocol. IEEE-488 is widely used in instrumentation for example. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Zigbee are sometimes used, allowing wireless communication between instruments and computers.
3. The computer program or software in microfluidic applications
This part of the instrumentation chain is referred to as the instrumentation software. It can be divided into different layers
a. An instrument driver
An instrument driver is a set of software routines that control a programmable instrument, from configuration functions to read/write operations. In our case, a microfluidic instrument driver consists in a set of functions that are based on our hardware “dynamic link libraries” or DLLs.
b. Our Software Development Kit
Our Software Development Kit also referred to as SDKs, can be considered drivers to control our instruments; our microfluidic pressure controller solution LineUpTM series SDK has been largely documented and allows for seamless integration within various commonly used Integrated Development Environments.
Our high level tools use such DLLs to interact with our hardware; for example, our All-in-One software, also known as A-i-O, uses our microfluidic pressure controller instrument Flow EZ’s, DLL from LabVIEW to control up-to 16 Flow EZs at the same time. Another example is out Microfluidics Automation Tool, also known as MAT, uses our MFCS DLL to control numerous MFCS channels.
c. The middleware part of the microfluidic software
The middleware part of the microfluidic software is usually in charge of collecting measurement data and making sure they get logged according to some previously executing user’s commands and providing data used by the graphical user interface to notify the user or feed measurements display graphs. Both A-i-O and MAT provide such measurement logging feature.
d. The graphical user interface
This allows the user to interact with the software.
What can be achieved with our Microfluidic Instrumentation Tool?
2017 was a strategic year in term of software for Fluigent; we actually released two high level new microfluidics.
1. Quick ramp-up, a high level new microfluidics
Our instrumentation software tools are designed to be easy-to-use. We focus on having everyone work with microfluidics rather than become software experts. In case one is facing difficulties, our support team is here to assist, and escalate any tough topics or unwanted behaviors to our R&D software team experts.
2. Easily control and monitor multiple microfluidic instruments concurrently
All-in-OneTM) and Microfluidics Automation ToolTM) are our two end-user applications allowing one to take advantage of our products lines. Both allow users to control multiple microfluidic instruments in a concurrent manner.
Both A-i-O and MAT automatically detect Fluigent hardware that is connected to a computer and display hardware dependent intuitive graphical user interface for one to quickly start working on any microfluidic experiments.
3. Manual and automation operating modes for microfluidics software
A-i-O focuses on manual control of multiple instruments at the same time; it supports both pressure and flow rate control and monitoring. Users can use it for long term experiences, but it does not allow you to reproduce the exact same experience.
MAT was designed to allow one to design microfluidic experiments, and replay them as many times as necessary with high reproducibility. It also supports both pressure and flowrate control and monitoring.
4. Live measurement visualization in microfluidics
As soon as A-i-O is launched, all pressure and flowrate sensors data are being displayed with no configuration implied on the user side. With MAT, once someone starts executing a protocol, the data is also displayed in graphs without the user having to perform any special setup.
5. Data logging for measuring the sampling rate to any microfluidic system physics
Any data that is visualized can be logged. In A-i-O, a single click allows the users to launch the data recording feature; advanced settings are available, allowing you to adapt the measurements sampling rate to any microfluidic system physics. MAT always logs any pressure and measurement data, as soon as a protocol starts, data logging is automated.