IBM Research has developed a small 3D printer, called the NanoFrazor, which can produce nanometer-level patterns on a soft polymer that can then be transported to silicon, gallium arsenide or graphene substrates. The 3D printer could function as an alternative to an electron-beam lithography system in printing integrated circuit patterns.
The main differences between the 3D NanoFrazor printer and the e-beam are the following:
- The 3D printer easily writes 3D patterns that are highly challenging for e-beams
- The 3D’s imaging capability can draw a 3D pattern and then immediately verify the 3D patterns by using its atomic force microscope feature.
- The NanoFrazor also outperforms e-beams in cost. Systems are priced around $500,000, whereas e-beams cost anywhere from $1.5 million to as much as $30 million.
The NanoFrazor is great for rapid prototyping of all sorts of applications. 3D patterns can even be formed to guide light around smooth corners, thereby reducing light scattering problems in light guides. The silicon tip of the nano-printer reaches 1,000 degrees Celsius and literally vaporizes the material to create indents of varying depths, depending on the light qualities of each pixel in the original scanned image.
The printer holds great promise for research, commercial applications, and companies who have a need. The following industries have shown a high level of interest in the NanoFrazor.
- Photonics companies want to make microscopic lenses and waveguides.
- Bioscience users want to create tiny sorting mechanisms to separate out individual living cells.
- Security firms plan to create microscopic security tags to protect important documents, currency, passports, and priceless works of art from forgery.
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