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Photonic Professional GT
Nanoscribe presents its Photonic Professional GT for high-speed micrometer-scale printing.
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The micro 3D printing in actionThe 3D micro printing process by two-photon polymerization. We start with the CAD model of a Hellcat spaceship from Wing Commander Saga and use our 3D printer Photonic Professional GT to print a polymer model on the microscale. The final structure is then inspected with a scanning electron microscope (SEM).
The Photonic Professional claims to be the world's fastest commercially-available 3D printer for micro and nanostructures.
Presented for the first time at the international trade fair Photonics West in San Francisco (USA) in early February, Nanoscribe's next-generation 3D printer enables very fast and high-resolution manufacturing of 3D micro-objects, which are often smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The printing speed is increased hundredfold by employing a novel laser lithography method, enabling completely new applications.
Speed: Minutes turn into seconds
The significant increase of the printing speed was achieved by implementing a galvo mirror system similar to those used 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 lateral laser focus positioning.
Nanoscribe was founded in 2007 as the first spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and has since established itself as the world market and technology leader in the area of 3D laser lithography.
Chief executive officer Martin Hermatschweiler commented: "We are revolutionising 3D printing on the micrometer scale. The demands for precision and speed at the same time are met by industrially-established galvo scanners - a quantum leap in nanofabrication. Our product benefits from more than one decade of experience in photonics, the key technology of the 21st century."
"Our 3D printers were already unrivaled in precision and resolution, user-friendliness and compactness. Now they also stand out due to their enormous speed."
The GT version of the Photonic Professional is equipped with a new modular controller, which facilitates the introduction of optional hardware extensions in the future.
Various new features have also been integrated into the software. The electronics cabinet has been redesigned for a more elegant and modern appearance.
Mechanism: Two-photon polymerisation
The direct laser writing technique underlying the 3D printing method is based on two-photon polymerisation. Just as paper ignites when exposed to sunlight focused through a magnifying glass, ultra-short laser pulses polymerise photosensitive materials in the laser focus.
This crosslinking of polymer chains renders the exposed volume insoluble relative to its unexposed environment. After washing away the unexposed material in a developer bath, the exposed regions remain as self-supporting 3D micro and nanostructures.
Breaking down technical barriers
The galvo technology is an essential building block for high-speed, large-area printing of three-dimensional micro and nanostructures. Just as floor tiles must be joined precisely, respective scanning fields must be connected seamlessly and accurately. By using a patented autofocus technique and high-precision positioning stages, areas can be extended almost arbitrarily by a so-called stitching process. As an example, square-centimeter-sized micro-optical arrays have been manufactured with this approach.
The limit on the overall structure height that is imposed by the limited working distance of the microscope objective has been broken by means of the patented Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL) method. In that way, highest-quality structures with heights above 100 micrometers can be achieved.
Chief science officer Dr Michael Thiel - in charge of the development of photosensitive materials - explained: "Our IP-Dip resist has been specifically developed for DiLL in order to guarantee high-quality results. Our IP-Dip resists for DiLL guarantee the highest resolution and homogeneity. In spite of these highly technical issues, the complexity remains of no concern to the user."
Precision tools for a wide range of applications
Nanoscribe's laser lithography systems are being used successfully worldwide to solve tomorrow's challenges and Mr Hermatschweiler is convinced that the new GT generation will attract enormous interest.