New nano-scale 3D metal printing process creates microscopic parts

Micro additive manufacturing technique prints copper parts as thin as a human hair.

0 February 10, 2016
by Design Engineering staff

(Image courtesy of Alain Reiser)

(Image courtesy of Alain Reiser)

Researchers at ETH Zurich announced a new 3D printing method, based on Cytosurge AG’s FluidFM biologic printing technology, that produces complex metal components on the nanoscale, complete with overhanging features but without the need of support structures.

The process includes a print nozzle that measures 300 nanometers. This moveable micropipette, mounted on a cantilever leaf-spring, deposits a layer of material precisely and with constant flow. The pipette is moved into position before an electrode is passed through, causing an electrochemical reaction, forming solid copper on a previous deposit.

Researchers involved in the project say that this method can be used to print a number of different metals, not just copper.

“FluidFM may even be suitable for 3D printing with polymers and composite materials,” says Tomaso Zambelli, associate lecturer and group leader at the Laboratory of Biosensors and Bioelectronics at ETH Zurich.

This new micro additive manufacturing process enables the forces acting on the tip of the pipette to be measured, making it easier to further automate and scale the printing process. Currently, Cytosurge sees potential applications in the watch and semiconductor industry as well as in the medical device sector.

Cytosurge is making this new 3D printing technology available to interested research teams and universities. The company also plans to develop an independent product line for industrial applications.

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