Projection micro-stereolithography (PµSL) adapts 3D printing technology for micro-fabrication. Digital micro display technology provides dynamic stereolithography masks that work as a virtual photomask. This technique allows for rapid photopolymerization of an entire layer with a flash of UV illumination at micro-scale resolution. The mask can control individual pixel light intensity, allowing control of material properties of the fabricated structure with desired spatial distribution.
Materials include polymers, responsive hydrogels, shape memory polymers and bio-materials.
The dynamic mask defines the beam. The beam is focused on the surface of a UV-curable polymer resin through a projection lens that reduces the image to the desired size. Once a layer is polymerized, the stage drops the substrate by a predefined layer thickness, and the dynamic mask displays the image for the next layer on top of the preceding one. This proceeds iteratively until complete. The process can create layer thickness on the order of 400 nm.
Sub 2 µm horizontal and sub-1 µm vertical resolutions have been achieved, with sub-1 µm feature sizes. Process can work at ambient temperature and atmosphere, although increased nitrogen improves polymerization Production rates of 4 cu mm/hr have been achieved, depending on resin viscosity.
Materials can be easily switched during fabrication, enabling integration of multiple material elements in a single process.
Applications include creating molds, electroplating or (with resin additives) ceramic items, including micro-bio reactors to support tissue growth, micromatrices for drug delivery and detection and biochemical integrated circuits to simulate biological systems.