Callaghan Innovation debuts micro 3D printer

The printer uses a technology called 'Laminated Resin Printing'

Callaghan Innovation has unveiled a new type of 3D printing technology that it says is able to print structures with features one twentieth the thickness of a 100 micron wide human hair.

The technology, developed by Callaghan Innovation's MicroMaker3D team, is one of ten selected for IDTechEx’s Santa Clara Launchpad, an initiative showcasing disruptive and state-of-the art technologies.

The printer uses a technology called Laminated Resin Printing (LRP) that, according to Callaghan, enables researchers, developers and manufacturers to create a wide range of printed structures for applications such as electronics, wearables, sensors, IoT devices and more: rapidly, easily and affordably.

"It enables developers to print sub millimetre structures with complex geometries of up to 100 per cent density, in extraordinary low-layer thicknesses and with imaging speeds as quick as one second per layer independent of complexity or density," Callaghan says.

According to co-inventor Andrea Bubendorfer the production of very small high-value devices – microfabrication – is an export industry for New Zealand, but previously the creation of these microstructures has been slow and expensive,.

“We set out to develop ways to make microfabrication more accessible and are proud to have created a new technology that addresses the significant need for rapid prototyping on the microscale" she said.

She said custom sensors was a niche application for the technology that the team was keen to explore.

"One high value approach would be to use molecular sensing to functionalise microstructures, so we could rapid prototype devices for detecting insulin concentration, biomarkers, presence of toxic gases or pollutants.

"There are endless possibilities to what we can print - and what is most exciting, though, will be when people start to print things we didn’t even know existed."

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Callaghan's senior business development manager, Cath Andrews, said the technology had application in many high-tech industries, including aerospace and medical.

“This is a game changer where high-resolution, size, weight and durability really matter. With the global miniaturisation megatrend underway, there is a rising demand for smaller components and detailing."

The project was initiated with funding from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, which is open to early career researchers based at universities and Crown Research Institutes across New Zealand

Programme recipients receive expert legal advice from KiwiNet corporate partner MinterEllisonRuddWatts and intellectual property advice from Baldwins. The Norman Barry Foundation, which owns the Quality Hotel Parnell, provided funding to support Andrea’s work.  

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