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Digital Generation of High Resolution Objects

Final Report Summary - DIGHIRO (Digital Generation of High Resolution Objects)

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the recently adopted common name for the technology that allows designs be done by computer and then the 3-dimensional objects to be made automatically. In an additive manufacturing process, the file containing the 3-dimensional design is first converted to another file that has the 2-dimensional slices of the object at small intervals (typically about 0.1 mm). Those 2-dimensional slices can then produced by various different AM techniques and stacked automatically to form the 3-dimensional object. The production of 2-dimensional slices is often done using commercially applied printing techniques, thus the technology is also referred as 3D-Printing.

In Stereolithography (commercialized in 1987), the slices are made by solidifying liquid photopolymer into the desired cross sections by an ultra violet laser beam that is controlled by galvanometric mirrors. First commercial applications of these techniques were to make prototypes during product development phase of high volume products. That is why the techniques were and are still often called as Rapid Prototyping (RP) techniques. However, the manufacturing applications are expected to dwarf the prototyping applications in near future giving reason for change of emphasis through the name to Additive Manufacturing. The technology is also often called 3D-printing. The present Additive Manufacturing systems are designed for objects of human scale, like in automotive and consumer goods markets. For example, the standard Stereolithography systems were originally designed not to produce to features significantly below the half millimetre range.

In this project, we have performed research in technologies that are foundations for economical, fast, and versatile micrometer scale (features down to 1 – 3 microns) AM systems. We chose the micrometer scale 1) because we expect the technologies to reasonably straightforward extensions of commercial AM (millimetre scale and larger) technologies, and 2) because we expect many applications that will benefit from the higher packing density or the smaller resolution. We have also developing a prototype system. We have also work on applications in many fields, including medical field and micro channel fluid diagnostics (lab-on-the-chip).