A drawing program and a 3D printer: that’s all it will take to produce tomorrow’s micro- and nanoscale products. With a new manufacturing technology, researchers at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, are hoping to pave the way for cheaper and more accessible manufacturing of micro- and nanoscale components in silicon.
Silicon is the most attractive material for high-performance micro- and nanoscale structures with applications in sensing and photonics. But current technology allows complex 3D silicon structures to be implemented only with complicated fabrication schemes and access to expensive semiconductor clean-rooms.
A team led by Frank Niklaus at KTH Royal Institute of Technology has demonstrated a new technology for printing 3D silicon micro- and nanostructures. The work has been published in Advanced Functional Materials in an article titled “3D Free-Form Patterning of Silicon by Ion Implantation, Silicon Deposition, and Selective Silicon Etching”. The new manufacturing method consists of a layer-by-layer process for defining 3D patterns in silicon, using ion implantation by focused ion beam writing followed by deposition of silicon. The layered 3D silicon structures are defined by repeating these two steps over and over, followed by a final etching step in which the excess silicon material is dissolved.
The team is planning to work with interested industrial partners such as suppliers of focused ion beam (FIB) equipment to implement and demonstrate the technology as a fully automated process in a single tool. This would enable printing of 3D silicon micro- and nanostructures directly from computer-generated 3D drawings.