3D printing research showcased on top industry innovation list
3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing processes in a vast number of fields and that includes objects both big and very, very small. The US-based Society of Manufacturing Engineers has highlighted KTH research into 3D printing of nanoscale silicon structures as one of 10 top manufacturing innovations for 2013.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) connects researchers with industry experts and other resources worldwide, working to spread manufacturing knowledge among its 24 000 members, representing 21 000 companies worldwide, and the broader manufacturing community in fields from aerospace to energy to medicine.
Every year SME honors 10 new and emerging technologies that have the potential to make an impact on manufacturing processes. The 2013 list includes KTH research into 3D printing of silicon nanostructures used to manufacture photonic and silicon micro-sensor products in low volumes at an affordable cost.
Today, producing silicon-based sensors at a micro- or nanoscale requires a full-scale clean-room laboratory, which can cost several million euros. These labs are also rarely suitable for small-scale manufacturing, as the production technology is usually optimised for large production volumes running into hundreds of millions of devices.
The technology developed at KTH consists of an additive layer-by-layer process for defining 3D patterns in silicon, using a focused ion beam, followed by silicon deposition. The layered 3D silicon structures are defined by repeating these two steps over and over, with a final etching step in which the excess silicon material is dissolved away. In the team’s vision of the future, the structure would first be designed in a 3D drawing programme then sent to a 3D printer that recreates the structure in silicon, layer by layer from the bottom up.
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