Two Lasers, One Goal: Affordable High-Resolution 3D Printing

Two-photon polymerization (2PP) is a powerful 3D printing technique for creating intricate microstructures. However, its widespread adoption has been hampered by the high cost of femtosecond lasers, a key component. Researchers have developed a promising solution: a two-laser approach that significantly reduces the femtosecond laser power requirement, making 2PP printing more affordable.

Traditionally, 2PP relies solely on femtosecond lasers to trigger a photochemical reaction within a light-sensitive resin. This reaction solidifies the resin at the laser’s focal point, building complex 3D structures layer by layer. While effective, femtosecond lasers are expensive, increasing the printing cost.

The new approach tackles this challenge by introducing a second, low-cost laser emitting visible light. This laser preps the material before printing by reducing inhibiting species within the resin. It allows the femtosecond laser to focus solely on the actual printing process, requiring significantly less power.

The research demonstrates power reductions of up to 80% for 2D and 50% for 3D structures. It paves the way for broader adoption of 2PP printing in various fields, including:

3D electronics: Creating miniaturized, high-performance electronic components.
Biomedical microrobots: Printing tiny robots for medical procedures and targeted drug delivery.
Tissue engineering: Fabricating intricate scaffolds for tissue regeneration.
The researchers have also developed a mathematical model to optimize the two-laser interaction, ensuring a delicate balance between printing and inhibition effects. Additionally, the new approach can be readily integrated into existing 2PP printing systems, minimizing the need for extensive infrastructure upgrades.

This advancement represents a significant step towards making high-resolution 3D printing more accessible and cost-effective. The researchers are continuing to enhance printing speeds further and drive down costs, potentially revolutionizing a wide range of industries shortly.

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