3D printer prints microns wide structures
3D printer prints microns wide structures

Students at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL have developed a powerful 3D printer that can print extremely small structures just a few micrometers in size.

The project started when professors from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne were looking for a new 3D printer. But these options are either too expensive or don't meet the standards required to do their job.

Professors Christoph Moser and Jürgen Brueger decided to build their own printing press. Their printers are ultra-thin filament printers that allow for 2D and 3D printing.

The researchers said they received funding from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne to purchase printers. However, they were unable to find a printer that met their needs.

Since the team could not find a commercial offer, the professors decided to involve the college's engineers and students in the project.

Before building the printer, the team must understand how MEW technology works to determine the materials needed to build the printer.

“We started from scratch and had to figure out how MEW technology works and what materials we should use,” explains prototype designer Dickie Ahmann, engineer at the Micro Systems Laboratory.

3D printer from scratch

Building a printer from scratch is a masterpiece in itself. But the printing function they developed is also very good.

The printer can print parts with a diameter of 1 to 10 microns. This is much smaller than the 100-micron limit of traditional filament 3D printers.

The speed of the printers they create is also an important characteristic. The printer can create a 20 x 20 mm frame in about 2 minutes.

The team also benefited from building their own printer. Knowing how it works makes setting up the device a lot easier. You can also customize the printer for different uses, making it ideal for teaching and scientific research.

“We have developed a platform and we can then optimize and fine-tune it for a specific material or application,” Moser says. And the printer is much cheaper than buying a similar standard model for CHF70,000.

The printer also supports a variety of materials, including all types of plastic, so it can print on different products.

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