Bolt-On Resourcing: Designing a DNA Synthesis Platform

Summary

This case study explores Round Peg’s role as a bolt-on engineering resource for Evonetix, a pioneering startup in DNA synthesis technology.

By supporting the internal team and assisting in design reviews, Round Peg engineers were able to identify and address a critical design issue in the Short Loop 2 (SL2) module. This was instrumental in filling a resourcing gap and speeding up development timeframes.

Introduction

Founded in 2015, Evonetix has revolutionized DNA synthesis with its proprietary silicon chip. By utilising thousands of reaction sites, this chip facilitates parallel DNA synthesis at an unprecedented scale and accuracy.

During the Evonetix startup phase, Round Peg acted as a bolt-on mechanical engineering department, enabling Evonetix to rapidly scale its design operations. While Evonetix engineers focused on the core technology, Round Peg assisted with the design and sourcing of various peripherals including a temperature management system and a microfluidic “flow cell”.

Developing the SL2 module

In the bolt-on capacity, Round Peg engineers supported a design review (DFMA) of Short Loop 2 (SL2) module, based around an upgraded silicon chip. They identified a potential assembly issue involving the use of temporary clamps to hold the silicon chip in place while wire bonding it to the control PCB. Movement of the chip during assembly would have damaged the web of fine connecting signal wires, resulting in chip assembly failures.

The Round Peg team were tasked with ideating and developing a solution.

Their solution, adjusting chip placement on the PCB and adding extra cutouts in the substrate, utilized the PCB’s flexibility to secure the chip without the temporary clamps, removing the risk. This had the added benefit of reducing part count and streamlining the assembly process.

Based on this success, Round Peg engineers went on to design the rest of the SL2 platform, which featured a complex array of miniature fans, heatsinks, and a flow cell constructed entirely from chemically inert materials.

Conclusion

The SL2 platform was successfully integrated, achieving faster DNA synthesis in a shorter timeframe than anticipated. Round Peg were able to further support the growing in-house team with passing on lessons learnt during the development.

As Evonetix Chief Technology Officer Matthew Hayes commented:

“Outsourcing allows us to scale up and down  in the short term to meet the needs of the project and the long-term relationship we have with Round Peg gives us continuity. They’ve been there from the start and they’re as expert in some of our technologies as we are ourselves. Their experience is invaluable in the planning stages of a project and when the time comes to implement it, we have total confidence in them to go away and realise it.”

 

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