The University of Southampton

3D laser printer to be developed through EU funded project

Published: 8 June 2010

A new EU funded research project is set to bring nanoscale manufacturing to the desktop with the development of a 3D laser printer.

The FEMTOPRINT (femtosecond laser printer for glass microsystems with nanoscale features) project has received an investment of almost 2.5M Euros from the EU with the aim of developing a compact 3D printer that will provide users with a cost effective method of producing their own microsystems from glass for use in research, academia and industry.

The project headed by Eindhoven University of Technology will combine the expertise and facilities of research teams from the UK, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Professor Peter Kazansky will head the UK team at the Optoelectronics Research Centre.

His team, together with Eindhoven University of Technology and Alphanov (France), will concentrate on the optimization of the material processing parameters of the laser designed for this project.

Basing their investigations on recent discoveries of new ultrafast phenomena, such as self-assembled nanostructuring and quill writing effects, the team will look at the interaction of ultrashort light pulses with transparent materials.

Investigations will be focused on fused silica glass as it is a unique material with an unrivalled combination of purity, high temperature resistance, optical transparency, chemical inertness and extraordinary properties such as the formation of self-organized nanogratings in the ultrashort pulse irradiated region.

Other materials the team will investigate include: borosilicate glasses, sapphire and polymers which are of particular interest in a number of applications from biology to photonics.

The project partners from Amplitude Systems (France) will investigate other aspects of the project with the aim of reducing the femtosecond laser for glass micro and nano manufacturing to the size of a shoebox by 2015. The other collaborators, including Quintenz Kurt (Germany), Mecartex, CSEM, EPFL (Switzerland) will develop advanced electronics and optomechanical components for the 3D Femtoprinter.

The partners hope that this project will bring the femtoprint laser to market through the creation of a consortium spin-out. A diverse range of industrial sectors are expected to profit from this development and there is great potential for economic gains as well.

Professor Kazansky comments: “This project provides a unique opportunity to implement our expertise in fundamental research on light-matter interactions for the development of high-end commercial products.”

Pictured above: Light logo imprinted by femtosecond-laser self-assembled nanostructures in silica glass

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