The research team of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has built a microprinter that can print piezoelectric films 100 times quicker for the production of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) for sensors, wearable or implantable medical devices, delivering the possibility to reduce the huge production cost.
The microprinter, which is built at a lower cost than other printers on the market, uses an electrostatic field to propel streams of ink onto a platform, allowing for efficient manipulation of thin film patterns and increased printing speed to address the challenge of mass production and structure and feature size control.
Nanoparticles, films, and patterns are three essential piezoelectric components used in sensing, actuation, catalysis, and energy harvesting. To this day, mass production of these components remains a difficulty due to the complexity of controlling these architectures and feature sizes on diverse substrates. In the midst of the ongoing surge in demand for MEMS, wearable/implantable electronics, miniaturized portable devices, and the Internet of Things, the pursuit of piezoelectric materials has become a priority and interest for many, owing to their intrinsic property of coupling mechanical and electrical energy.
So far, the HKUST research team's unique microprinter marked a significant step toward ultrafast and large-area additive micromanufacturing of 3D things with almost any composition and customized microstructure and functionality. The team, lead by Prof. YANG Zhengbao, Associated Professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at HKUST, built a 3D microprinting mechanism out of a spiny disc coupled to a needle and a power source in their experiment.