The project 5DNanoprinting, coordinated by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology), has the goal of developing innovative smart materials and novel fabrication methods for micro and nano devices. In the next four years, it aims to propel forward the current state-of-the-art of micro and nano printing technologies, allowing faster prototyping of the devices and designing novel functional materials with tailorable properties. The National Research Council of Italy (Cnr) is partner of the project with the Institute for Microelectronics and Mycrosystems (Imm).
The 5DNanoPrinting approach is meant to reach the full potential of “MEMS” thanks to the possibility of creating these microdevices in less time, with lower costs and higher flexibility.
The project, with the complete title ‘Functional & Dynamic 3D Nano-MicroDevices by Direct Multi-Photon Lithography’, has been awarded a budget of 3.58 million euros under the EU’s Horizon 2020 FET Open Program.
What are MicroMachines? MicroMachines – also known as “MEMS” (Micro ElectroMechanical Systems) – refer to microscopic devices with moving parts which are capable of accomplishing a specific task. They find applications in many fields such as consumer electronics, automotive and healthcare. MEMS’ market share was estimated to be around 50 billion US$ in 2018, However, the production of these micro/nano devices presents a lot of issues. In fact, the limitations in the materials and the fabrication methods, together with the expensive development process that many devices need, are impeding the full development of this technology, slowing down the access to the market and presenting very high prices.
5DNanoPrinting project will especially focus on direct laser writing, a 3D-printing technology that uses focused laser pulses to prepare complex structures with extremely high resolution. This new experimental approach of rapid prototyping makes the production process faster and it allows the customization of the devices during the production phase. Moreover, when compared to the standard fabrication techniques, the 5DNanoPrinting methodology can lower the production costs of MEMS thanks to the possibility of producing small quantity lots (on-demand). This is particularly appealing in the case of bio-medical devices or other components where the personalization is a key factor which could determine a raise in quality.
The project name “5DNanoPrinting” adds 2 dimensions to the spatial ones, fostering a change of paradigm in the 3D printing methods: the time and a sort of “intelligence” within the material. In fact, during the production procedure, 5Dnanoprinting will make it possible to develop 3D micro/nanostructures, where materials may acquire on-demand properties (+1D, materials’ functional intelligence), coupled with real-time control (+1D, time).
Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) coordinates the project and will participate to the consortium with two centers in Tuscany: Center for MicroBioRobotics (CMBR) in Pontedera (Pisa), where the coordinator Virgilio Mattoli is based, and Center for NanoTechnology Innovation (CNI) in Pisa.
Together with IIT, the project’s consortium includes academic and industrial partners from both Italy and other European countries that will bring their expertise in chemistry, material science, physics and engineering. The Institute for Microelectronics and Mycrosystems (Imm) of the National Research Council of Italy (Cnr) will develop, together with IIT, the innovative fabrication platform based on 2-photons laser combined with a sophisticated control system for delivery specific stimuli at the materials while they are processed. The University of Groningen (Netherlands) will provide structural materials; Graz University of Technology (Austria) will develop responsive materials; the Trinity College of Dublin (Ireland) will design electrically conductive materials that will be compatible with the system. STMicroelectronics (Italy) will be in charge of the technological assessment and technology exploitation.
Finally, the 5DNanoPrinting approach makes important steps forward compared to the standard 3D print. In fact, this technique will enable maskless rapid prototyping, to test new ideas, principles and configuration before the final device design; it allows the production of 3D complex and customizable devices like parametric devices; on-demand production of low numbers/high added value devices, targeting bio-medical applications. The researchers will validate the new technique by the creation of an innovative cochlear implant, specifically enabled by the 5DNanoPrint process, which integrates several resonating MEMS directly fabricated on a standard implantable electrode. This experimental approach may determine an applicative follow-up with a high impact on the specific sector of cochlear implants.
Alberto Roncaglia (Principal Investigator)
Cnr - Imm
Virginio Mattoli (IIT) is the coordinator of the project.
Other Cnr-Imm Principal Investigators are Gabriele Bolognini e Stefano Zampolli.
Valeria delle Cave
IIit - Direzione Comunicazione e Relazioni Esterne