I am trying to design a syringe pump for microfluidic extrusion uses. I have a 5cc syringe tube that I will use as the cartridge. We would be using it to extrude a variety of materials so the viscosity is uncertain. I want to know what's the best way to find out what the maximum linear force is needed from the piston to deliver a certain extrusion speed of certain materials.

I was thinking maybe doing an experiment with different materials in the cartridge would be the most straight forward but at this time no one is allowed back in the lab... Is there a good theoretical way to find a ballpark range of force that might be needed (so I can choose the right motor)? Maybe the Poiseuille Equation?

I am very new to this. Thanks for any advice!

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'd start by trying to get a quantitative feel for the force required. Get some syringes from the nearest pharmacy, fill them with various fluids - maybe Golden Syrup (a viscous sugar syrup), etc., invert the syringe on a kitchen scales and press down on the body. Measure the force (N = kg x 9.81) and the time taken (from which you can calculate the rate). That may help you determine if you've got gross errors when you start to do the calculations. $\endgroup$
    – Transistor
    May 25, 2020 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ F=ma to calculate force. Pressure in a fluid is different. $\endgroup$
    – Rhodie
    May 31, 2020 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ The early sections of Faber (1995, Fluid dynamics for physicists, Cambridge University Press) use a syringe as an extended case study to survey the field of fluid mechanics. That's good news and bad news. It's good news in that there's an easy-to-get source where you can read up on the issue. It's bad news in that it indicates that almost any fluid-mechanical phenomenon could be going on in a syringe, so in order to get a straight answer to your question, you're going to have to specify a lot more detail about the geometry of the syringe, the fluid to be used, and the extrusion rate. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2020 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ pressure you are injecting into, syringe geometry, viscosities of fluids in syringe ( likely includes both liquid and gas)... possible reactions occurring in syringe?... if you eliminate all the funny stuff for ballpark worst case, model syringe as two cylinders, a pressure at the output, and a constant force from plunger friction... and throw a factor of safety of 4 on it for just the syringe. more if other linkages, etc could also potentially misalign. $\endgroup$
    – Abel
    Oct 18, 2021 at 12:57
  • $\begingroup$ The syringe force is pretty much a combination of two things. (1) friction at the sides (for a large syringe with a high back pressure, sometimes a minor component). (2) pressure times plunger area (ie syringe internal space cross section). The pressure in turn is proportional to fluid viscosity, via Poiseuille's law $\endgroup$
    – Pete W
    Feb 15, 2022 at 13:49

1 Answer 1


I think you can use the Bernoulli equation $p + 1/2\rho V^2 + \gamma z$, which is constant along a streamline. Here $p$ is the pressure, $\rho$ the density of the fluid, $V$ velocity of the fluid, $\gamma$ the specific weight and $z$ the height/position.

Depending on how you place the syringe the problem will be different, lets assume you place it horizontally. Since you want to know the extrusion speed, it is the $V$ at the opening of the syring that is interesting. We set up the equation as follows: $p_1 + 1/2\rho V_1^2 + \gamma z_1 = p_2 + 1/2\rho V_2^2 + \gamma z_2$. Point 1 is inside the syringe and point 2 is just at the opening.

Since the syringe is horizontal, there is no height difference and we can place $z_1 = z_2 = 0$. Furthermore, the fluid inside the syringe, near the piston, is assumed to be at rest which gives $V_1 = 0$. This reduces the equation to: $p_1 = p_2 + 1/2\rho V_2^2$.

$p_1$ is known and can be calculated from: $p_1 = F/A$, where $F$ is the force and $A$ the area of the piston. $\rho$ is also known which is the density of the fluid. Now we can calculate $V_2$ as: $V_2 = \sqrt{(p_1 - p_2)*2/\rho}$.

This is a very simple way to calculate the relation between the applied force and velocity. It is based on a few assumptions which might get you started at least.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.