3D Printing On The Micrometer Scale Unveiled By Nanoscribe
February 9, 2013

High-Speed 3D Nanostructure Printer Demonstrated At Photonics West Conference

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A device capable of quickly manufacturing three-dimensional objects smaller than the diameter of a human hair was recently presented by researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

The researchers, who are officially affiliated with KIT spin-off organization Nanoscribe GmbH, demonstrated what they claim is the world´s fastest 3D printer of microstructures and nanostructures at the Photonics West international science fair, held from February 2 through February 7 in San Francisco, California.

The device is “based on a novel laser lithography method” and can create miniscule three-dimensional objects “with minimum time consumption and maximum resolution,” officials from the high-tech company explained Wednesday in a statement. “By means of the new laser lithography method, printing speed is increased by factor of about 100.”

“This increase in speed results from the use of a galvo mirror system, a technology that is also applied in laser show devices or scanning units of CD and DVD drives. Reflecting a laser beam off the rotating galvo mirrors facilitates rapid and precise laser focus positioning,” they added.

Using this technology, Martin Hermatschweiler, the managing director of Nanoscribe GmbH, said that the company is “revolutionizing 3D printing on the micrometer scale.”

Their laser-writing technique is based on two-photon polymerization, which utilizes extremely short laser pulses to create a chemical reaction in photosensitive materials that are in the laser focus, which results in only the exposed or unexposed volume being dissolved and written areas remaining as self-supporting nanostructures following a developer bath, officials with the laser lithography system development firm explained.

“By means of the galvo technology, three-dimensional micro- and nanostructures can be printed rapidly and, hence, on large areas in principle,” Nanoscribe representatives said. “At highest resolution, however, the scanning field is limited physically to a few 100 µm due to the optical properties of the focusing objective. Just as floor tiles must be joined precisely, the respective scanning fields have to be connected seamlessly and accurately. By the so-called stitching, areas can be extended nearly arbitrarily.”

“The 3D laser litho-graphy systems developed by Nanoscribe“¦ are used for research by KIT and scientists worldwide. Work in the area of photonics concentrates on replacing conventional electronics by optical circuits of higher performance,” they added. “For this purpose, Nanoscribe systems are used to print polymer waveguides reaching data transfer rates of more than 5 terabits per second.”