Thanks to a laser technique that ejects ultra-tiny droplets of metal, it is now possible to print 3D metal structures, not only simple ‘piles’ of droplets, but complex overhanging structures as well: like a helix of some microns in size, made of pure gold. Using this technique, it will be possible to print new 3D micro components for electronics or photonics.
Thanks to this technique, called laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT), the UT researchers are able to build, drop by drop, a structure with copper and gold microdroplets. The copper acts as a mechanical support for the gold.
The LIFT technique is a promising technique for other metals and combinations of metals as well. The researchers expect opportunities for materials used in 3D electronic circuit, micromechanic devices and sensing in, for example, biomedical applications. It therefore is a powerful new production technique on a very small scale: an important step towards ‘functionalisation’ of 3D printing.