MEMS are miniature mechanical structures with 3D features and considerable complexity. These mini machines can be integrated with electrical components and have dimensions measured in microns.
MEMS devices originated in microelectronics but now have growing applications in medical devices and microfluidics. As the demand for micro mechanical devices continues to grow, designers want greater freedom and faster speeds.
Why Not Micro Machining? Cost + Time + Restrictions
No matter how they are fabricated, most micro mechanical devices use some form of photolithography to fabricate structural components.
Micro machining (both surface and bulk) results in:
- Relatively slow etching
- Devices with low aspect ratios
- Required bonding to form complex devices
And while surface micro machining offers good dimension control, it involves multiple, repetitive steps that add to project costs and timelines. Moreover, it requires separate build and sacrificial materials.
Why Micro 3D Printing? Speed + Precision
Some current 3D printing platforms offer rapid processing, but they’re limited to low-precision applications and larger part sizes. Not all 3D printers can create tiny components with fine features and tight tolerances. And though two-photon polymerization based direct laser writing (TPP-DLW) is ultra-precise, it’s slower than what designers want when they’re leaving micro machining behind.
Fortunately, BMF’s projection micro stereolithography (PμSL) technology:
- Delivers greater design and manufacturing freedom
- Supports continuous exposure for faster processing than time-consuming etching
- Causes the rapid photopolymerization of an entire layer of liquid polymer resin with a flash of ultraviolet (UV) light
- Can create 3D channels that are as small as 10 microns have high aspect ratios
By removing the constraints associated with traditional manufacturing techniques, micro 3D printing is growing beyond the world of academic research to achieve commercial applications. BMF also offers an open material platform and is working with third-party suppliers, universities, and OEMs to onboard materials that support specific application-based requirements for micro mechanical devices.