3D printing gets 1000x speed boost with nanometre resolution

October 07, 2019 //By Julien Happich
3D printing
Using a new time-based method to control light from an ultrafast laser, researchers have developed a nanoscale 3-D printing technique that can fabricate tiny structures 1000 times faster than conventional two-photon lithography (TPL) techniques, without sacrificing resolution.

A millimeter-scale structure with submicron features is
supported on a U.S. penny on top of a reflective surface.
Credit: Vu Nguyen and Sourabh Saha.

The team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and The Chinese University of Hong Kong paper disclosed their new 3D printing process in a paper titled “Scalable submicrometer additive manufacturing” published in the Science journal.

To get that 1000x printing speed boost, the authors added a twist to a submicrometer additive manufacturing technique known as two-photon lithography (TPL). Because it use a serial point-by-point writing scheme, TPL is too slow for many applications. The researchers used an ultrafast laser to implement a projection-based layer-by-layer parallelization through spatial- and temporal- multiplexing. This increased the throughput up to three orders of magnitude while expanding the geometric design space.

Despite the high throughput, the new parallelized technique known as femtosecond projection TPL (FP-TPL) produces depth resolution of 175 nanometers, which is better than established methods, the researchers report. They demonstrated the fabrication of structures with 90-degree overhangs that can't currently be made. The technique could lead to manufacturing-scale production of bioscaffolds, flexible electronics, electrochemical interfaces, micro-optics, mechanical and optical metamaterials, and other functional micro- and nanostructures.

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