Dr. Yves Bellouard of the Department of Mechanical Engineering is coordinator of a new European project, Femtoprint, to be started this month. The goal is to design a convenient 3D laser printer that will print microstructures in glass. With this ‘femtoprinter’ the manufacture of microstructures would no longer be the exclusive realm of big enterprises.
No Clean Room Needed, Shoe Box Size Device Target
The applied three-dimensional pattern can then simply be etched away in one go, whereas conventional methods still build up the patterns layer by layer. And as the pattern is applied in the interior of the glass, there is no contact with the air, so there is no cleanroom required. Bellouard and his colleagues have already proved that this method enables them to make the basis for a lab-on-a-chip.
FEMTOPRINT is to develop a printer for microsystems with nano-scale features fabricated out of glass. Our ultimate goal is to provide a large pool of users from industry, research and universities with the capability of producing their own micro-systems, in a rapid-manner without the need for expensive infrastructures and specific expertise. Recent researches have shown that one can form three-dimensional patterns in glass material using low-power femtosecond laser beam.
These patterns can be used to form integrated optics components or be developed by chemically etching to form three-dimensional structures like fluidic channels and micro-mechanical components. Worth noticing, sub-micron resolution can be achieved and sub-pattern smaller than the laser wavelength can be formed. Thanks to the low-energy required to pattern the glass, femtosecond laser consisting simply of an oscillator are sufficient to produce such micro- and nano- systems. These systems are nowadays table-top and cost a fraction of conventional clean-room equipments.
It is highly foreseeable that within 3 to 5 years such laser systems will fit in a shoe-box.
The proposal specific objectives are:
– Develop a femtosecond laser suitable for glass micro-/nano- manufacturing that fits in a shoe-box
– Integrate the laser in a machine similar to a printer that can position and manipulate glass sheets of various thicknesses
– Demonstrate the use of the printer to fabricate a variety of micro-/nano-systems with optical, mechanical and fluid-handling capabilities.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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