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Advance in micro 3D printing enables rapid prototyping of microscale objects

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This article was published on 22 May 2019

NZ innovators present on printing structures to meet market demand driven by the miniaturisation mega-trend at Rapid and TCT 2019 conference in US.

Micro 3D printing technology developed by a team of engineers and scientists at Callaghan Innovation is enabling the rapid prototyping of detailed objects smaller than a strand of human hair.

The technology represents a major advance in the 3D printing of micro structures and is being presented by Callaghan Innovation today at the Rapid and TCT conference in Detroit, US – one of the biggest events of the 3D printing calendar.

MicroMaker3D additive manufacturing is powered by breakthrough Laminated Resin Printing (LRP) and has the potential to fuel innovation in the growing $US7bn miniaturisation market. 

“We recognised the growing demand for miniaturised structures – the vital components in an increasing number of devices and manufacturing applications – and then we went about finding a way to produce these structures in a less costly way,” says Lead MicroMaker3D engineer Dr Neil Glasson, who will deliver a presentation at Rapid TCT.

MicroMaker3D’s patent-pending LRP technology makes it fast, easy and more accessible for researchers, developers and manufacturers to create a wide range of submillimeter printed structures for applications such as electronics, wearables, sensors, IoT devices and more.  

3D printed map of New Zealand
3D printed map of New Zealand

 

Dr Glasson says since being introduced in November last year, Micromaker has progressed at pace and the prototype is now printing much more complex micro structures relevant in high value applications such as micromachine components.

“When LRP, a new type of 3D printing, was introduced last year we knew it had the potential to be game changing,” says Dr Glasson.

“Now with specialised engineering this is becoming a reality – we are printing detailed objects smaller than a strand of human hair. For context, a human hair is about 100 microns and with MicroMaker3D we’re talking 5 microns. 

“Prototyping progress has been swift, and we continue refining the level of precision on the tiny structures. The team has recently produced moving parts which is exciting.” 

Cath Andrews, Senior Business Development Manager, says Callaghan Innovation is working to take the technology global, from development and demonstration phase to commercial reality.

“LRP was developed to address a growing market need to rapidly produce microscale structures in an efficient, convenient and cost-effective way,” says Ms Andrews.

“It could open up miniaturisation as a new high value application in additive manufacturing, an industry that already exceeded $US7B in 2018. So, it’s not surprising that with its development it’s attracting investor and end-user interest.”

Dr Neil Glasson will present MicroMaker3D and elaborate on its progress with a few structures at the Rapid TCT event on Tuesday 21 May at 10:45am, Room 330 B. Neil and Cath will be taking the opportunity to talk with interested parties in Detroit over the next few days. 

Callaghan Innovation LRP team
Some of the MicroMarker3D Team - Ann Manning, Andrew Best and Andrea Bubendorfer

 

  • LRP co-inventors Andrea Bubendorfer and Andrew Best, in Callaghan Innovation’s Microfabrication team, identified microfabrication as an economically significant industry with easily exportable high value product. And they saw a gap in the market for an accessible, faster and less costly approach.
  • LRP enables printing submillimeter structures with complex geometries of up to 100 per cent density, in extraordinary low-layer thicknesses and with imaging speeds as quick as one second per layer independent of complexity or density. 
  • Rapid and TCT is one of the key international 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing conferences and is a key forum for presenting new developments. Last year it was attended by 7,000 companies actively involved and using 3D printing.