Frequently Asked Questions
How does Laminated Resin Printing compare to Photolithography?
Photolithography is the collection of processes used in microfabrication to transfer patterns from photomasks to a light-sensitive photoresist on a substrate. Specialised equipment such as laser direct writers and mask aligners are used to carry out individual steps in the process. Photolithography is carried out in highly specialised and expensive cleanroom facilities, by trained operators. With permanent photoresists, photolithography is able to achieve resolutions down to approximately 2 microns. Typically, photolithography is restricted to a small number of layers.
LRP uses dry film photoresists designed for microfabrication, with high thermal stability and resistance to acids, bases and solvents. The processes are automated and housed in a clean self-contained system using on-the-fly patterning directly from CAD with a fast projector, circumventing the photomask process. LRP can achieve resolutions down to 5 microns and can print with large numbers of layers.
How does Laminated Resin Printing compare to Nanoprinting?
Nanoprinters use Two Photon Polymerisation (TPP) to print structures with nanometer-sized voxels at a time, typically by exposure from an ultrashort laser pulse. They commonly use similar photoresists to photolithography and LRP. Like microfabrication, nanoprinting is expensive and requires highly skilled operators in an expensive cleanroom environment.
In contrast, LRP is fast, printing with micro rather than nanoscale resolution of the whole layer of a structure at a time, rather than printing by voxel. LRP is cost-effective and user friendly, operating in its own miniature contained cleanroom environment.
How does Laminated Resin Printing compare to high resolution 3D printers?
While there is significant interest in pushing the limits of 3D printers for microstructures, there are currently no 3D printers able to rapid prototype on the microstructure level required for micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) devices and other microstructures. Further, to overcome the limits of 3D printing technology, print materials are often optimised for printability, with characteristics that don’t meet the requirements for MEMS.
In contrast, LRP enables developers to print with feature sizes down to 5 microns in all planes, in a print material optimised for performance. The microfabrication resin used has 20 years’ demonstrated performance for microstructures, including elasticity which allows active structures to deflect in MEMS devices. Further, LRP prints in a support material allowing the easy construction of the overhang structures needed for deflection.
How does Laminated Resin Printing compare to Electronic prototyping?
Electronic prototyping is the printing methods for making electrical devices on various substrates. Rapid prototyping in printed electronics uses direct feedback for iterative design, significantly reducing development time. Electronic prototyping machines are typically expensive specialist machines for printing electronics.
Because LRP is based on the microfabrication principles of transferring patterns to photoresist, it is analogous to the processes developed for the electronics industry – the use of photolithography to transfer a wiring diagram to a copper-clad substrate by patterning and selective etching to produce a printed circuit. Therefore, LRP is well suited for use in this application.