A new 3D printing technology developed by New Zealand’s Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation, has won the 2019 ENVI Engineering Innovation Award (Engineering New Zealand Awards) for creating highly detailed objects, which are smaller than a strand of human hair.
According to a recent press release, Micromaker3D makes it easy and more accessible to create detailed submillimetre structures for applications such as sensors, wearables, point-of-care diagnostics, microrobotics or aerospace components.
The judges saw MicroMaker3D, which is powered by breakthrough Laminated Resin Printing (LRP), as a game-changer and believe it will spark many other innovations.
Background of the initiative
Leading a team of engineers and scientists at the Innovation Agency, Dr Neil Glasson explained that it has the potential to fuel innovation in the miniaturisation market expected to be worth over US$ 13 billion by 2021.
According to the Lead MicroMaker3D engineer, there is rising demand for miniaturised structures, which are the vital components in an increasing number of devices and manufacturing applications.
Understanding the frustrations around current methods, the team went about finding a way to produce these tiny components in a less costly way.
Since the team introduced the foundational LRP technology in November last year, Micromaker3D has progressed at pace and the prototype is now printing more complex micro-structures.
LRP had the potential to be game-changing. And now with specialised engineering, this is becoming a reality.
About LRP technology
LRP is a new type of 3D printing that will underpin technologies for prototyping electronics, microparts, microsensors and IoT components, and optical devices, among others.
LRP enables the printing of submillimetre structures with complex geometries of up to 100 percent density, in extraordinary low-layer thicknesses and with imaging speeds as quick as one second per layer independent of complexity or density.
For context, a human hair is about 100 microns. With MicroMaker3D, they are looking at 5-micron resolution.
Prototyping progress has been swift and they continue to refine the level of precision on the tiny structures. Currently, they are producing moving parts, which they consider to be exciting.
The LRP technology was introduced last year at IDTechEx’s Santa Clara Launchpad and MicroMaker3D developments were presented earlier this year at the Rapid and TCT 2019 conference in Detroit.
Andrea Bubendorfer and Andrew Best co-invented the LRP technology powering MicroMaker3D, after identifying microfabrication as an economically significant industry with easily exportable high-value product.
Callaghan Innovation is working to take the technology global, from development and demonstration phase to commercial reality.
The ENVI Engineering Innovation Award category is described as: ‘A breathtakingly clever engineering project or product that has solved an age-old problem or shifted from the ‘always done this way’ mentality.’