DPG Prize for Superprecise 3D Laser Printing
Taking sharper photos with the smartphone, stimulating nerves electrically with a clamping lock, or growing cells in an optimal environment, all this is made possible by a revolutionary superprecise 3D printing process developed by researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). A manufacturing method that once was a scientific niche has quickly evolved as a business into a world market leader with revenues in the millions in a booming high-tech market. For this translation of scientific findings into economically successful and useful products, the Institute of Nanotechnology and the Innovation Management Service Unit of KIT as well as the Nanoscribe company are granted the Technology Transfer Prize by the German Physical Society (DPG).
In 3D laser lithography, a computer-controlled laser beam hardens structures in a photoresist, whose smallest dimensions are less than one thousandth of a millimeter. The technique can be applied, for instance, to produce highly stable materials composed of miniature grids, very small and very precise lenses for sensors and optics, and tiny scaffolds for cultivating cells in body-like environments. Originally, the process was used for manufacturing so-called photonic crystals for optical telecommunications only. Martin Wegener, Professor of the Institute of Applied Physics and one of the Directors of the Institute of Nanotechnology of KIT, however, recognized that this technique is suitable for the production of almost any complex three-dimensional micro- or nanostructure and perfected it with his research group. “In the beginning, it appeared to be completely out to lunch and to be of interest to a few freaks only. Today, it is the most precise 3D laser printer on the market, offering all options and strengths of 3D printing,” Wegener says.
Full text: Press Release 012/2018