User guide

Christian Fobel edited this page Jan 5, 2018 · 4 revisions

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Installing the device driver

The first time you plug in the Arduino, Windows will try to find the driver automatically. If it fails, you may have to install the driver manually.

Loading a DMF device file

To load an example device, download this file somewhere on your computer. Then from the MicroDrop menu, choose "File/Device/Load" and select the "device" file that you just downloaded. Once you've loaded a device for the first time, a copy of it will be stored in the MicroDrop profile directory in the "devices" sub-folder (i.e., <Documents>\MicroDrop\devices).

Importing a new DMF device

See MicroDrop v2.0 device format.

New device designs can be imported into MicroDrop from svg files. To convert from dxf to svg, you can use the freely available Inkscape. The first time that you start Inkscape, open the menu item "File/Inkscape Preferences...". Then click on "SVG output" and make sure that "Path string format" is set to "Absolute" and that "Force repeat commands" is checked (as shown in the image below).


Before converting a device mask to an svg file, you should apply some modifications. These can be performed in either AutoCAD or in Inkscape:

  1. Delete all devices except for the desired one.
  2. Delete contact pads, borders, and any other closed paths that are not electrodes. Make sure to remove any hatching. Wire traces and text are ok (they will be ignored).
  3. Rotate the mask appropriately.

The following steps should be performed in Inkscape:

  1. MicroDrop does not support circles or arcs. You can convert curved paths to straight-line approximations by selecting "Extensions/Modify Paths/Flatten Bezier" from the menu. A lower flatness will produce a better approximation but a larger device file.
  2. Set the colour of the electrodes. This is the colour that will be used to display electrodes in their "off" state within the MicroDrop interface. Avoid red and white if possible, since red is used to represent electrodes with no assigned channel and white is used for actuated electrodes.
  3. Make sure that there are no groups.
  4. Save the file as an svg.

Now from the MicroDrop application:

  1. Choose "File/device/import" from the menu and select your svg file.
  2. Right click any electrode and edit the electrode area (mm2).
  3. Right click and edit electrode channels according to the 90-pin or 120-pin mappings. Assigned electrodes will change from red to your chosen color. Note: The number assignments of the 90/120 pin formats are very different
  4. "File/device/save" your design.

Starting an experiment

  1. Turn on Amplifier (not applicable for DropBot DB3-120 systems)
  2. Insert device with the correct orientation.
  3. Load your device in MicroDrop.
  4. Turn on webcam lighting (if applicable).
  5. If using video, right click device and choose "Register device" from the menu. Click sequentially on the device map and image (4 points each) and click "Ok".

Realtime mode

  1. Set actuation parameters (Voltage (rms), frequency etc.) WARNING: Be sure to keep your voltage set under ~200 Vrms.
  2. Click on the real time mode check-button.
  3. Click electrodes to turn on, and again to turn off (white electrodes are live).

Creating and running protocols

  1. Uncheck the real time mode check-button.
  2. Click on electrodes you wish to charge.
  3. Click the forward arrow to goto (or add) the next step - alternatively press d.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 until your protocol steps have all been entered.
  5. Assign voltages, frequencies and minimum durations to all steps. This can be individually by scrolling through each step, directly in the list menu or in bulk by selecting two or more steps (shift-click), right clicking on any voltage/freq in the list menu --> "set voltage/frequency/duration to...".
  6. Go to your first step by clicking on the left arrow line button - alternatively press a.
  7. Choose "File/Protocol/Save".
  8. Press the play button to run protocol.

Shut Down

  1. Turn off Amplifier on DropBot 2 systems (not applicable for DropBot DB3-120 systems).
  2. Remove device.
  3. Close the MicroDrop program.


  1. To calibrate for the dielectric layer, actuate one or more electrodes that are completely covered with your fluid, then right click and select "Measure capacitance of liquid".
  2. To calibrate for the filler fluid, actuate one or more electrodes that are completely covered by the filler fluid (e.g., oil or air), then right click and select "Measure capacitance of filler media".
  3. Feedback can be turned on/off for each step by checking/unchecking the "Feedback enabled" button in the list menu.
  4. Feedback options can be accessed for each step from "Tools/Feedback options".
  5. With feedback on, the program will run your step until either the feedback parameters have been satisfied (under options) AND the duration that is set for each step have been met. If the maximum number of repeats (under options) is exceeded, the protocol will fail.
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