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Additive manufacturing with adaptive optics makes precision parts

19 Nov 2020

Combination with digital light processor engine said to enable cost-effective production.

Nanofabrica, a 3D printing startup company in Israel, says that its incorporation of two optical technologies can now produce complex and intricate industrial parts in volume.

The Tel Aviv company explains that its “Tera 250” additive manufacturing system combines semiconductor lithography technology with both adaptive optics and a digital light processor (DLP) engine.

It has now used the approach to produce precision parts including industrial impellers and fiber-optic adapters - claiming that it brings an unrivalled combination of precision and speed to micro manufacturing.

Repeatable resolution
“The technology is based around a DLP engine, but to achieve repeatable micron levels of resolution combines DLP with the use of adaptive optics,” stated the firm.

“This tool, in conjunction with an array of sensors, allows for a closed feedback loop - the reason that Nanofabrica’s Tera 250 can achieve very high accuracy while remaining cost-effective as a manufacturing solution.”

The company has also developed its own proprietary photopolymer materials - based on the most commonly used industry polymers - that permit the ultra-high level of resolution in parts built.

Nanofabrica says that the industrial impeller, a part typically used to increase the pressure and flow rate of a fluid, measures precisely 5.66 x 5.66 x 2.87 mm.

According to the firm, the Tera 250 system allows short-series runs to be undertaken economically, with the addition of adaptive optics facilitating the impeller’s inherent geometric complexity.

Despite their characteristic complex curves and “super-sharp” edges, which are difficult to produce using conventional molding technologies, the impellers made using the Tera 250 are said to be produced with lower development costs and a "dramatically" shortened production time.

“The impeller is manufactured for use in industrial MEMS and micro mechanical mechanisms, and through the use of the Tera 250, it is easily customizable, and can be produced quickly and economically without the necessity for complex, costly, and difficult to amend micro tooling,” claims the company.

Fiber-optic adapter
Featuring a 50 x 50 x 100 mm build chamber, the system can also support production of several customized parts simultaneously.

According to Nanofabrica’s data sheet detailing the equipment, a build speed of 1 mm per hour delivers parts with a resolution just under 2 microns.

The fiber-optic adapter part produced using the same technique features some complex, curved internal cavities where optical fibers are fed in. These are easily produced by the Tera 250 but would be extremely difficult and expensive to make with conventional micro tooling and molding, claims Nanofabrica.

“With the Tera 250, these highly precise parts can be produced to exacting tolerances, and the machine is ideally suited to short series runs,” stated the company. The channels in the adapter are said to accurately accommodate 250 micron fiber optics, with overall part dimensions measuring 9 x 6 x 6 mm.

Nanofabrica’s global sales chief Avi Cohen said of the results: “It is only through the unique combination of hardware, software, and material innovations at Nanofabrica that we can claim that the Tera 250 is the first 3D printing machine to not just be able to achieve such precision and accuracy, but to be able to do so while at the same time being commercially viable in terms of speed of production, and cost of production.”

Nanofabrica believes that the latest capabilities demonstrate that its additive manufacturing equipment can be a “game changer” with respect to micro manufacturing.

“Design engineers and OEMs can now see that restrictions that they have to work within when designing and manufacturing for traditional manufacturing processes are no longer there,” claims the firm.

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