Aug 17, 2016 | By Andre
Scientific discovery can be incredibly important and fascinating no matter which direction you choose to go with it. Whether it's examining the universe and its almost unfathomable vastness or switching gears and focusing on the tiniest of quantum states. 3D printing is no different in that there is incredible interest in large format 3D printers but on the flip-side also on technologies that focus on the microscopic world.
Optomec, an established developer of metal 3D printing, has recently announced a 3D printing technology that can print 3D polymer and composite structures at the micron level with an added ability of embedding material onto previously manufactured goods. Officially called Aerosol Jet Technology, the process features a rapid material solidification approach that relies on both local deposition and local curing and is said to provide the highest resolution in its space.
So how small is small? The system is capable of lateral features down to 10 micron and vertical build resolution from 1 micron to 100 nanometers (or 0.0001mm) respectively. For comparison purposes, most commonly available FDM 3D printers on the market today can reliably print at 100 micron (or 0.1mm) per layer.
Mike O’Reilly, the director of Aerosol Jet Product Management, notes that “this breakthrough in 3D printing technology extends additive manufacturing to the creation of micron scale, free-form polymer structures and smart devices. We continue to place emphasis on innovation such as Aerosol Jet 3D micro-structure printing to address our customers’ next-generation product development challenges.”
You might be wondering what’s the point? Tiny microscopic Yoda figurines from Thingiverse aren’t likely going to revolutionize the world. But with a little bit of thought, the ability to print onto existing components and products (such as microchips, medical devices or industrial parts) has vast potential in future applications. It is said that early adopters of the technology have already developed innovative applications for smart devices and micro-fluidic applications.
And according to the company provided white paper, nearly any surface geometry can be printed on, minimal support structures are required (I imagine cleaning supports off on a microscopic level would be a tedious undertaking), and composite materials can also be printed.
The process, although tiny in scale, is fundamentally similar to most 3D printing techniques. In this case a UV curable dielectric is dispensed from an Aerosol Jet system at 10-100 µm and instantly cured. From there, a metal nanoparticle ink is dispensed/sintered over this recently cured material in a precise fashion, then repeated over and over until the structure is formed.
The research even has environmental implications by suggesting that the “fabrication method described in this letter opens up the possibility of environmentally conscious manufacturing of an entirely new class of custom-shaped 3D metal dielectric structures at a length scales down to 10 µm.”
The company has long been in the business of trying to best figure out ways to reduce product cost and improve performance when it comes to its traditional family of metal 3D printing technology. Its experience with metal inks and bio matter lends itself directly to its goal of 3D printing further and further into the microscopic realm.
Posted in 3D Printer
Maybe you also like:
- ARK Invest Management launches first ever 3D Printing ETF fund
- Robots and 3D printing could threaten millions of Southeast Asian jobs in next two decades
- Global 3D printing market up +9% in Q1’16, expected to reach $18.4 billion by 2020
- Fuji Xerox & Keio University develop new FAV 3D printing data format that retains object's colors, materials & internal structures
- Metal 3D printing more potent than ever with soluble metal support structure breakthrough
- ORNL: atomic-scale additive manufacturing techniques could create stronger, lighter, smarter materials
- Hackers could place internal defects into 3D prints, say NYU cybersecurity researchers
- 3DTOPO makes cool copper Bearded Yell statue with new 3D printed lost shell sand casting
- Cow cartilage used in 3D bioprinting bid to make ‘patches’ for worn out joints in future
- Mitsubishi's '5D printed' parts 3-5x stronger than 3D printed counterparts
- Computer program creates 3D printed artwork (after 2.5 million attempts)