In the biomedical industry, the establishment and examination of cell cultures is a key application, both in research and development and in manufacturing processes of biotechnical products. In these process chains, so-called cell culture plates are a necessary tool for growing cell cultures or performing organic tests outside of a living organism. The automated processes in the manufacturing chain result in high demands on the materials used. Cell culture plates must also meet these requirements. As a result, certain tolerances must be maintained during their manufacture.

Simple, fast and – depending on requirements – automated process control can contribute to compliance with these requirements. In this way, the entire manufacturing process is sustainably improved. In the following, such a control option is described as an example, which can be transferred to other areas with similar or deviating requirements.

The cell culture is formed on the bottom of a so-called well. Multi-well cell culture plates, with a typical plate size of approx. 80 mm x 120 mm, contain wells. This allows different cell cultures to be grown within a single well plate under the same conditions. The size of a well varies between one and several millimeters up to several centimeters, as exemplarily shown in the figure. While the body of the plates is made exclusively of suitable plastic, the bottoms of the plates on which the cell culture is placed are often covered with a thin film, the thickness of which is between 10 µm and 1 mm. Due to these thin films, bending and thus unevenness occur at the bottoms of the cell culture plates. After the cell cultures have been laid down, they are typically analyzed with the aid of automated optical microscopes. For this purpose, the well bottoms on which the cell culture lies must be at (approximately) the same height, so that the focus of the light microscope does not have to be moved in the automated image acquisition process, or only as little as possible. Therefore, the entire cell culture plate must not have too much deflection, nor must the unevenness of the individual well bottoms be too great. This results in narrow manufacturing tolerances.

Cell culture plates are used for the cultivation of cells in dedicated culture media in biomedicine and for their subsequent examination. Reliable process control is essential for the production of such plates.  The topography measurements for this can be done automatically, with the help of FormFactor’s FRT MicroProf measurement system.

Download the new technical brief – Automated Image Acquisition Process Ensures Flat Cell Culture Plates – and read about flatness as a quality standard, automation for fast process control, and fast profile measurements and tolerance classifications. Thanks to optical metrology, there are a wide range of optimization options available for this and other medical technology applications.