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ORNL Researchers Improve 3D Printing at the Nanoscale with Simulation Guided Process

by • August 15, 2016 • No Comments

ornl-logo249x60You may have noticed that 3D printing appears to be getting bigger and bigger by most accounts, of 3D printed cars to buildings, and in fact entire villages. As the talent and understandledge are increasing with this new innovation around the world, so are the equipment and the innovations themselves. For most researchers involved in reaping the rewards of 3D printing, yet, they operate on the opposite of the ‘bigger is advantageous’ motto, working with the tiniest of structures.

Whilst most of us can barely in fact comprehend what takes place in the realm of the nano, for researchers like the team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, that’s not just where they are comfortable-bodied—the nanoscale is where they get excited. That does not mean their work at ORNL is effortless, yet. And in their latest project, they were working to streamline the system of createing and 3D printing structures you can’t in fact see.

A nano denotes a thing really tiny. As tiny as 1/1000 of a hair, in fact. And if you had to work with a thing on that scale, as well as attempting to 3D print it, you’d most likely be devoting a few time to finding advantageous ways to do so as well. Consider your initially attempts at 3D printing, createing a version.

“Imagine shrinking it tinyer than a drop of water, tinyer in fact than a human hair, until it is dwarfed by a common bacterium,” offers an ORNL press release.

For nanoscale fabrication, the researchers use focutilized electron beam induced deposition (FEBID). This is unquestionably not the 3D printing you’ve been attempting of the computer desktop, but it does manufacture sense if you consider what is really a easy system—just for much tinyer things—with the beam of the scanning microscope creating a solid deposit upon condensing gaseous precursor molecules. Whilst that pretty sounds astounding and in fact is a fewwhat effortless to visualize, it’s in addition not all that surprising to find that the method was considered hard, error-prone and impractical unless just 3D printing structures over several nanometers. As a solution, the team at ORNL, in collaboration with the University of Tennessee and the Graz University of Technology, made a new system.

As team leader Jason Fowlkes of the ORNL Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, explained, the secret for improvement was in combining both create and construction into one act, streamlining, and additional enabling the team to manufacture 3D printed nanostructures that are hard.


A 32-face 3-D truncated icosahedron mesh tested the simulation’s talent to manufacture hard geometries. The SEM image of the final experimental product (left) was highly consistent with the structure predicted by the virtual SEM image (center) and the simulated create version (right). [Image: ORNL]

With their simulation-guided drafting system, the researchers have indeed improved FEBID, along with offering a host of new opportunities for those working in the area of nanomanufacturing. This is all outlined in their paper, ‘Simulation-Guided 3D Nanomanufacturing via Focutilized Electron Beam Induced Deposition,’ authored by Jason D. Fowlkes, Robert Winkler, Brett B. Lewis, Michael G. Stanford, Harald Plank, Philip D. Rack, and published in ACS Nano.

Here, the team discusses how the old approach in 3D printing wasn’t really right for the context of their projects:

“Whilst the fabrication of easy architectures such as vertical or curving nanowires has been achieved by easy trial and error, systeming hard 3D structures is not tractable-bodied with this approach. In part, this is due to the dynamic interplay between electron–solid interactions and the transient spatial distribution of absorbed precursor molecules on the solid surface.”

In applying 3D lattice structures at the micro/nanoscale, they achieved really great results—so great in fact, that in the paper, they discuss the amount of considerable-bodied attention got due to the ‘superior mechanical and optical properties’ they have achieved.

Because the team has discovered such an accurate talent to create custom nanostructures, Harald Plank, of Graz, and one of the co-authors of the paper, sees this study as having opened up ‘a host of novel applications in 3D plasmonics, free-standing nano-sensors and nano-mechanical elements on the lower nanoscale that are approximately not easy to fabricate by other techniques.’

With 3D simulation in guiding the beam, the researchers are able-bodied to manufacture both their lattices and their meshes between 10 nanometers and one micron. The 3D printing method takes place as electron scattering paths are tracked, along with the release of the secondary electrons, enabling for the prediction of the deposition pattern, and the consequent visualization of the structure.

Jason Fowlkes

Jason Fowlkes

What manufactures this new system special is the combination of both the simulation and the experiments, says Fowlkes. The construction is guided by the simulation, and the accomplished experiments allow for feedback on both the accuracy and the durablity of the simulation itself.

Inconsistencies cautilized by secondary electron activity can be filtered out easily as well, caught as creates are being fed into simulation and drafting.

“In its easyst form, once we understand the emission profile of those secondary electrons we don’t want, we can create around them,” Fowlkes said.

And although it may be slower than other methods utilized to manufacture structures on the nanoscale, Fowlkes stresses that the FEBID system is the just way to manufacture the 3D printed high fidelity nanostructures they have been making. Otherwise, they revert back to the trial and error method with guide adjustments required to get the desired result.

Now they can be able-bodied to focus on additional refinements such as clearing the 3D printed structures of carbon contamination, through an in situ purification system. This is performed through via water, oxygen, and a laser, removing the carbon. According to ORNL, during the simulation, both the stresses of the removal system and the transformation to be discovered in the final product can be anticipated.

“We can create structures in a way where the actual writing pattern can appear distorted, but that’s bringing into account the fact that it’s going to retract and contract during purification and and so it can appear like the proper structure,” Fowlkes said.

This research was supported by the Center for Nanophase Material Sciences, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Discuss additional over in the ORNL Metal 3D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: ORNL]