The ability to 3D print single micron resolution parts in mass quantities was a challenge until recently. Thanks to several technical innovations, however, it is now possible. The innovations needed came in hardware, software, and materials.
Nanofabrica is a developer of micro additive manufacturing platforms. The hardware the company uses consists of a digital light processor (DLP) but with adaptive optics. Once the image to be printed is projected through the DLP, the light then passes through the adaptive optics module. The optics module electronically controls focus, tilt, and astigmatism.
Through the use of an optomechanical apparatus, the DLP unit corrects other parameters in real time. These parameters are location and accuracy in the XY plane, and degrees of freedom like wobbling. These parameters affect the surface finish of a part.
The Nanofabrica AM technology uses a technique it calls multi resolution. This technique enables small parts and large “macro” parts with intricate micro details. The areas needing fine details are printed relatively slowly, but the areas where the details aren’t so exacting, the part is printed at a speeds 10-100 times faster. Thus, the entire printing speed is 5-100 times faster than other micro AM platforms.
Controlling this hardware requires software algorithms. Feedback algorithms are used in a closed loop to increase accuracy and repeatability in production. Positioning errors are corrected using laser distance measurements.
Another algorithm focuses on custom file preparation, optimizing print angle, build plate orientation, and supports.
At the moment, micro additive manufacturing requires custom materials. These materials are based on common industry polymers like ABS and PP that handle ultra high-resolution in parts built through modifications in polymerization radii, viscosity, surface tension, and spectral-optical penetration depth.
For more information on Nanofacrica’s specific technology, www.nano-fabrica.com