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A dry ink-free digital printing process to deposit multifunctional materials?

We recently came across this interesting system, developed by Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, PhD et al Auburn University. Here, as shown below, an excimer laser is focused by lens onto a target. The target is ablated, forming a plume of nanoparticles which then condense onto the substrate to form nanoparticles. The laser system can be used to in situ sinter and crystallize the structure.

This dry printing process thus involves no inks and can 'print' complex multifunctional materials like TiO2 or ITO, going beyond the capability of traditional digital printing. This researchers claim that this "new method allows the in situ and on-demand formation of various nanoparticle building blocks in atmospheric pressure and at room temperature. These nanoparticle building blocks can be directed toward the substrate through a nozzle forming a stream of nanoparticles that can be laser sintered/crystallized on various substrates in real-time."

Indeed, below you can see an example of the generated and sintered TiO2 nanoparticles. Furthermore, you can see examples of ITO and TiO2 circuits printed on SiO2 substrate using this process.

This is a novel, promising and innovative approach to direct digital deposition of a wide range of materials on various substrates. It may overcome some key limitations of ink-based wet printing techniques, especially in terms of possible material options.

This is currently a small scale lab operation and of course as the technology development advances more trade-offs will become known.


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