A versatile 3D printing technology is offered in which electrostatic control is used to form a continuous electrohydrodynamic ink jet and to precisely position it on a substrate forming a predefined pattern made of solid fiber with fiber diameter typically in the few-micron or submicron ranges.
The technology uses electrostatic forces to deflect the trajectory of the fast-moving jet in its flight toward the substrate, in a time-varying fashion. This technology is capable of printing predefined 2D patterns and 3D microstructures with submicrometer resolution and unprecedented speed of up to 2000 fiber layers per second, resulting in total printing time of up to about 1 second per 3D structure. A patent is pending for this technology.
The offered technology is a method for improving electrohydrodynamic (EHD) jet printing so that it can be used for printing at high resolution using a continuous fiber as thin as a micron and smaller. A solid fiber is printed as an electrohydrodynamic (EHD) jet is collected on a substrate, where it solidifies. Electrohydrodynamically generated jets can easily be made into such small diameters, and to move at high speed towards a substrate (even above 1 m/s). Conventionally, patterns are produced by moving a mechanical stage under an EHD jet. However, state-of-the-art mechanical stages are too slow to allow controlling the landing position of a fast-moving jet, which often buckles. The offered technology bypasses the limitations of mechanical stages by using electrostatic deflection to print high-resolution features at high speed. It avoids moving the substrate (or the nozzle concerning the substrate), by continuously deflecting the jet's trajectory by means of the electric field created by auxiliary electrodes. In this way, the jet "writes" a complex time varying pattern on the substrate without buckling.
This method is advantageous as fiber acceleration attainable by electrostatic jet deflection is 5 orders of magnitude higher than the maximum acceleration mechanical translation stages are capable of. Higher acceleration allows precise printing of complex predefined 2D patterns. If electrostatic jet deflection is combined with the translation of the substrate, fiber tracks with preset width, fiber alignment and orientation are printed. In this way, fiber tracks with anisotropic properties (e.g., electrical, optical or wetting properties) can be manufactured. 3D microstructures can be created without moving the substrate, by sequentially stacking fiber layers with printing speed up to 2000 layers per second, while the height of the obtained 3D microstructures is controlled down to the height of single layer.
Simplicity, material versatility and high fiber generation speed, inherent to EHD jetting, paired with the precision of electrostatic jet deflection makes this an enabling technology for the additive manufacturing of microstructures with submicrometer resolution such as are used in electronics, sensors, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), biofabrication and tissue engineering, among other applications.
Allows printing of predefined 2D patterns and 3D microstructures using a continuous fiber.
5 orders of magnitude faster accelerations compared to translation mechanical stages
Accelerations as high as 500 000 m/s2Printing speed up to 2000 layers per second
Full control over fiber positioning, alignment, and orientation
Submicrometer resolution in X, Y, and Z
Desired business relationship
Printing of continuous fiber for flexible electronics, fabrication of gas sensors, fabrication of MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems), printing of scaffolds for tissue engineering, electrohydrodynamic printing, high resolution 3D printing, melt electrowriting (MEW), electrospinning