Nanoscribe Makes Fastest 3D Laser Lithography Printer for Nanostructures

First Posted: Feb 12, 2013 03:41 PM EST

The world’s fastest 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures has been developed by Nanoscribe GmbH, a spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the German company announced at the Photonics West, the leading international fair for photonics taking place in San Francisco.

The 3D laser lithography printer is capable to make complex three-dimensional objects smaller than the diameter of a human hair out of polymers. Nanoscribe systems are for example used to print miniaturized polymer waveguides reaching data transfer rates of more than 5 terabits per second.

Using a new laser lithography method, printing speed is increased by factor of about 100. This increase in speed results from the use of a special “galvo” mirror system, a technology that is also applied 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 laser focus positioning. “We are revolutionizing 3D printing on the micrometer scale. Precision and speed are achieved by the industrially established galvo technology. Our product benefits from more than one decade of experience in photonics, the key technology of the 21st century,” says Martin Hermatschweiler, the managing director of Nanoscribe GmbH.

The direct laser writing technique works with the mechanism of two-photon polymerization. Very precise and ultra-short laser pulses polymerize (fuse into large molecules) photosensitive materials in the laser focus by allowing molecules to connect that need exactly two same-energy photons. Depending on the photosensitive material chosen, only the exposed or unexposed volume is dissolved. After a developer bath, these written areas remain as self-supporting micro- and nanostructures.

This allow three-dimensional micro- and nanostructures to be printed rapidly and on large areas. A single scanning field, meaning the area that can be manipulated in one go, is limited in size to a few 100 microns due to the optical properties of the focusing objective, but this is no problem since an unlimited number of these fields can be seamlessly connected.

Biosciences produce tailored scaffolds for cell growth studies among others. In materials research, functional materials of enhanced performance are developed for lightweight construction to reduce the consumption of resources.

In early 2008, Nanoscribe was founded as the first spin-off of KIT and has since established itself as the world’s market and technology leader in the area of 3D laser lithography. Among the customers are universities and research institutions as well as industrial companies.

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