LIFT (Laser-Induced Forward Transfer) is a technique that can be used to 3D print microstructures using various materials, including gold. Here are the basic steps for 3D printing gold microstructures using LIFT:
- Prepare the gold ink: Create a gold ink suitable for LIFT. This typically involves mixing gold nanoparticles with a solvent, such as ethanol or water, to create a homogeneous solution.
- Create a donor substrate: Using a laser, create a patterned donor substrate by ablating (removing) material from a thin layer of the gold film deposited on a glass or silicon substrate. The patterned donor substrate should match the desired structure of the final product.
- Prepare the receiving substrate: Place a receiving substrate near the donor substrate, such as another glass or silicon wafer. The receiving substrate should be coated with a thin layer of a suitable adhesive material, such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA).
- Print the microstructures: Using a pulsed laser, transfer tiny droplets of the gold ink from the donor substrate to the receiving substrate. The laser is focused on the donor substrate, which causes the gold ink to be ejected as a droplet that lands on the receiving substrate and sticks to the adhesive layer. The process is repeated until the desired structure is built up.
- Post-processing: Once the microstructures are printed, they may require additional post-processing steps, such as annealing to improve their electrical conductivity or mechanical strength.
It’s important to note that 3D printing gold microstructures using LIFT can be a complex process that requires specialized equipment and expertise. However, it has many potential applications in microelectronics, nanotechnology, and biomedical engineering fields.
According to the UT researchers Matthias Feinaeugle, Ralph Pohl, Ton Bor, Tom Vaneker and Gert-willem Römer, “laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT), they are able to build, drop by drop, a structure with copper and gold microdroplets. The copper acts as a mechanical support for the gold. In their paper in Additive Manufacturing the researchers show, for example, a printed helix: this could act as a mechanical spring or an electric inductor at the same time. This helix is printed with copper around it: together with the helix, a copper ‘box’ is printed”.
Printing of complex free-standing microstructures via laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) of pure metal thin films
If you could 3D print any gold microstructure using LIFT, what would it be and why? 💰🖨️🤔
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