A study on microfabrication using additive manufacturing was conducted by researchers, which adds to the emerging paradigm shift of building microstructures with AM to revolutionize device design in fields such as medicine and energy storage. The study describes engineers’ new approach to addressing multiple microfabrication issues in AM and enabling 3D-printed objects as small as 1.5 microns—one-fifth the size of a red blood cell. The new micro-CLIP single-digit micron resolution 3D printing technology allows for 50X smaller part features than commercial CLIP printers while maintaining the commercial printers’ high print speed, which is more than 100X faster than other “state-of-the-art” high-resolution 3D printing methods suited for microfabrication.
To achieve single-digit-micrometer resolution, the researchers created and implemented a custom projection lens system comprised of a tube lens and microscope objectives. Due to the extremely narrow depth of field of the high-magnification microscope objectives, the researchers visualized the projection pattern with a CCD camera using a focused algorithm that included an in-line beam splitter and a customizable tube lens.
The team used a contrast-based algorithm and a digitally designed mesh pattern to determine the optimal focal plane position. After scanning to a depth of 400 m and evaluating the through-focus projected image stacks, the team identified the optimum sharpness location and confirmed the performance with actual print results. According to the team, this contrast-based focusing system digit (micron resolution 3D printing) solves the problem of focusing on the narrow depth of field from high-magnification projection optics and allows them to readjust to the ideal focal plane easily.
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