AKL e.V.


FEMTOPRINT: A femtosecond laser printer for three-dimensional micro- and nano-manufacturing of glass

Dr. Yves Bellouard
Dr. Yves Bellouard

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering Department
Eindhoven University of Technology
Eindhoven, Netherlands

ZIP (english text and pictures)   ZIP (german text and pictures)

Members of the Project Team
  • Dr. Yves Bellouard, Eindhoven University of Technology, NL (Team Representative)
  • Dr. Clemens Hönninger, Amplitude Systèmes, Pessac, F
  • Eric Mottay, Amplitude Systèmes, Pessac, F
  • Stefano Bottinelli, Mecartex SA, Muzzano, CH
  • Michael Hopper, Quintenz Hybridtechnik GmbH, Neuried, D
  • Dr. Jean-Marc Breguet, CSEM, Neuchâtel, CH
  • Dr. François Barrot, CSEM, Neuchâtel, CH
  • Prof. Peter Kazansky, University of Southampton, UK
  • Prof. Reymond Clavel, EPFL, Lausanne, CH
  • Dr. Rainer Kling, ALPhANOV, Bordeaux, F
  • Dr. John Lopez, ALPhANOV, Bordeaux, F
  • Nicoletta Casanova, FEMTOprint SA, Muzzano, CH

Areas of Application
The innovation is of interest for all industrial sectors that make use of micro-structured glass materials. Application areas are photonics (polarization converter, integrated optics for telecommunications, micro-optical components, etc.), biomedical engineering (microfluidics channels, optofluidics for cells analysis and sorting, etc.), micro- and precision engineering which includes for example watch-maker industries and sensor technologies (micro-actuators, micro-mechanical components, glass 3D micromoulds, etc.), information storage (high density eternal glass memory).

Technological Impact
  • New product and new product features: a desktop femtosecond laser printer for rapid-prototyping and small volume production of micro-parts and micro-systems, that can operate outside a cleanroom and for a fraction of the cost usually necessary for these kinds of facility
  • Reduced process costs
  • Shorter development lead time
  • Boost innovation by offering a large pool of users the possibility to produce their own prototypes without the need for large capital investments

The spectacular miniaturization trend ongoing for the last thirty years in various technology sectors has not yet been paralleled by a similar miniaturization of the production means. Ironically, today, the microsystems industry uses very large pieces of sophisticated equipment to fabricate very small parts. Thus large capital investments are required to set-up and operate microsystem production facilities. Mainly products with potential large markets are considered, and only a few large suppliers can make the necessary financial investments. Small and medium size enterprises are prevented from entering the field although they usually are a strong source of innovative ideas.

The aim of the European Femtoprint-project, completed in May 2013 and supported under the Framework Programme Seven by the European Commission was to develop a desktop printer for microsystems with nanoscale features fabricated out of glass. Users from industry, research and universities should be capable to produce their own microsystems, in a rapid-manner without the need for expensive infrastructure and specific expertise.

Recent research results have shown that three-dimensional patterns can be realized in glass material using a low-power femtosecond laser beam. The patterns can be used to realize integrated optics components or to form by chemically etching three-dimensional structures like fluidic channels and micro-mechanical components. Sub-micron resolution can be achieved and pattern smaller than the laser wavelength can be formed. Thanks to the low-energy required to pattern the glass, compact and low-average power femtosecond laser are sufficient to produce such micro- and nano-systems.

Over the last three years a prototype of a desktop Femtoprinter suitable for micro-/nanomanufacturing of glass has been developed on the basis of the elaborated scientific insights and the technological know-how. It will provide affordable and on-site microsystems production capabilities to a large community of users. The Femtoprinter effectively combines in a desktop system, advanced femtosecond laser technologies with innovative three-dimensional precision positioning mechanism, coupled through in-depth process engineering. This prototype is now commercialized by the Swiss company FEMTOprint SA, a spin-off of the European project.

Highlighted applications realized in the European project were the first demonstration of algae biochips, first transparent actuators, novel polarization converters to create optical vortices, new moulding processes and the demonstration of 5D optical memory.

Desktop femtosecond laser printer realized on the basis of the results of the European Femtoprint-Project
(Picture source: © TU/e
(Y. Bellouard))

Structures in glass realized with the Femtoprint-System
(Picture source: © TU/e
(Y. Bellouard))
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