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The cost of new 3D printing technology is reduced by 98%


Ultra-precision 3D printing technology is the key to manufacturing precision biomedical and photonic devices, but the existing 3D printing technology is low in efficiency and high in cost. To this end, researchers in related fields have been exploring new technologies. The latest achievement is the femtosecond projection two-photon lithography (FP-TPL) technology jointly developed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The cost of new 3D printing technology is reduced by 98%

By controlling the laser spectrum by time focusing, the new technology realizes the parallel layer-by-layer printing of laser 3D printing instead of the previous point-by-point writing. This new technology greatly increases the printing speed by 1000-10000 times and reduces the cost by 98%. "Science" included this research, affirming that it has brought nanoscale 3D printing into a new era.

The traditional nanoscale 3D printing technology, namely two-photon polymerization (TPP), operates in a point-by-point scanning mode, which is inefficient. Even centimeter-sized objects may take several days to several weeks to produce. If the speed is to be increased, the accuracy of the finished product is often sacrificed. This process is time-consuming and expensive, which seriously hinders the practical application of 3D printing technology.

The new technology uses the concept of time focusing to overcome this problem, forming a programmable femtosecond light sheet on the focal plane for parallel writing. This is equivalent to projecting millions of laser focal points on the focal plane at the same time to replace the traditional method of focusing and scanning lasers. In other words, the FP-TPL technology can produce the entire plane within the time that the TPP technology produces one point.

The subversive feature of FP-TPL is that it not only greatly improves the speed (about 10-100m/h), but also improves the resolution (about 140 nm / 175 nm in the lateral and axial directions), and reduces the cost (1.5 USD/ m). The typical hardware of the traditional TPP system includes a femtosecond laser light source and an optical scanning device, such as a digital micromirror device (DMD). The main cost comes from the laser light source, with a typical life span of about 20,000 hours.

Therefore, reducing the manufacturing time from a few days to a few minutes can greatly extend the life of the laser, and indirectly reduce the average printing cost from US$88/m to US$1.5/m, a 98% reduction.

Due to the slow point scanning speed and the lack of the ability to print support structures, the traditional TPP system cannot manufacture large and complex overhangs. FP-TPL technology through its high printing speed—partially polymerized parts quickly connect before drifting in the liquid resin—can produce large and complex overhangs.

FP-TPL technology can benefit many fields, such as nanotechnology, advanced functional materials, micro-robots, medical and drug delivery equipment. Due to its significantly improved speed and reduced cost, FP-TPL technology may be commercialized and widely used in the future.

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