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3D Microfabrication: An Introduction to Micro-Sized 3D Printing

  • July 2, 2020

3D printing is an innovative manufacturing process that allows companies to quickly and efficiently build objects from a computer-generated model file. It involves the use of a 3D printer to build the object using raw material. While most 3D printers are capable of producing small objects, some of them are designed specifically for small, micro-sized objects. Known as 3D microfabrication printers, they work in a similar way as other 3D printers but on a significantly smaller scale.

What is 3D Microfabrication?

3D microfabrication is a manufacturing process that’s characterized by the use of a special 3D printer to build micro-sized objects. The objects build using this process are often measured in micrometers. Just how big is a micrometer? Well, one inch is the equivalent of 25,400 micrometers. Therefore, micro-sized objects are often difficult to see with the naked eye.

Reasons for Microfabrication

You might be wondering why manufacturing companies would even want or need to build such small objects. After all, there aren’t many micro-sized products available on the market. Nonetheless, microfabrication is commonly used to build circuits for electronic devices. Whether it’s a smartphone, television, computer or even a watch, many electronic devices require the use of micro-sized circuits. Other manufacturing processes generally aren’t capable of producing micro-sized circuits, so manufacturing companies use microfabrication.

How Microfabrication Works

Microfabrication works by using a special 3D printer to build a micro-sized object layer by layer. With that said, the 3D printers used in this process don’t just release or extrude raw material. They work in a different manner, with most of them relying on a high-powered laser.

Laser microfabrication involves the use of a laser-based 3D printer to build a micro-sized object. The laser can either add material to a substrate, or it can remove material from the substrate. Most lasers use the latter technique by removing material from a substrate to build the desired micro-sized object.

Some laser microfabrication printers also use UV light for curing purposes. The UV light will run across the substrate where it cures resin in specific areas. As the resin cures, its properties will change. It may become thicker as well as harder, for instance. Regardless, microfabrication printers build objects layer by layer — just like other 3D printers. The difference is that microfabrication printers are designed specifically for small objects measured in micrometers, whereas other 3D printers are only capable of building larger objects.

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