Cytosurge AG, Glattbrugg, Switzerland, has added a new function to its FluidFM® µ3Dprinter, which enables it to additively manufacture structures directly onto the surfaces of existing components with ‘pinpoint’ (micrometer) accuracy, the company says. This upgrade has the potential to enhance micromanufacturing by enabling users to combine AM with traditional methods of microfabrication.
The FluidFM µ3Dprinter is capable of additively manufacturing structures ranging from 1 µm3 to 1,000,000 µm3, a range which would be virtually inaccessible using other techniques according to Cytosurge. The FluidFM process uses a combination of microfluidics and force microscopy, with microscopic channels introduced into force-sensitive probes. The resulting probe is called the FluidFM iontip.
During Additive Manufacturing, a tiny volume of ion-containing liquid is pumped and dispensed through a sub-micrometre aperture in the FluidFM iontip (as small as 300 nm), allowing flow rates as small as a few femtolitres per second, approximately a million times smaller than the lowest flow rate detectable by flow sensors. This allows for the production of complex pure metal objects at a microscopic and sub-microscopic scale, invisible to the naked human eye.
The new ‘pinpoint’ capability is reportedly made possible by the integration of two high-resolution cameras into the new FluidFM µ3Dprinter. As well as allowing automated loading of the iontips, printer set-up and calibration, these new cameras allow for computer-assisted alignment of the iontip to an object or surface the microscopic structure is to be built on. With the image or the video taken, the exact positioning of the structure can be manually chosen and set as the starting point for the process.
The FluidFM µ3Dprinter allows the user to additively manufacture microscopic and sub-microscopic metallic objects onto pre-defined contact pads on the surface of microstructures such as integrated circuits or micro-electromechanical systems.
Founded in 2009, Cytosurge develops, manufactures and distributes high-precision nanotechnology instruments as well as robotic systems based on FluidFM technology. It is currently said to be focusing its activities into three distinct customer-oriented business units: 3DPrinting, which markets and develops the company’s Additive Manufacturing technology, AFM Solutions and Cell & Bioscience.