French manufacturer of high-resolution 3D microprinting technologies Microlight3D has acquired Smart Force Technologies (SFT), a France-based producer of maskless lithography systems for micro-scale 2D printing. The acquisition will enable Microlight3D to add 2D printing capabilities to its microprinting portfolio.
SFT was founded as a spin-off of LTM, a leading French research center dedicated to the development of miniaturized micro and nano-electronic devices. Microlight3D’s technology, for its part, is capable of 3D printing objects with a resolution 100x smaller than a human hair. By pairing the 2D and 3D microprinting capabilities, the company hopes to open up applications for the production of microfluidics, microoptics, microsensors and microelectronics.
“Microlight3D’s acquisition of Smart Force Technologies is an ideal fit,” commented Denis Barbier, CEO of Microlight3D. “We gain expertise in high-resolution 2D printing, that, combined with our 3D microprinting know-how, will lead us to develop new micro-fabrication systems. These future 2D-3D microprinting systems will respond to customer needs for faster, larger and more complex printing capabilities. Microlight3D is now in a stronger position to support a range of customer developments in the life sciences and increasingly in industrial applications.”
Through the acquisition, Microlight3D now owns 100% of SFT’s shares. The small team behind SFT—comprising just three people—will be employed by Microlight3D, adding their technical and commercial skills to the company’s R&D capacities. SFT’s flagship product, SmartPrint, and other IP will also be transferred to Microlight3D.
In the past, Microlight3D and SFT had worked together to combine their respective 3D and 2D microprinting technologies. Evidently, the early collaborations were a success.
“SFT is delighted to merge with Microlight3D, whose 3D microprinting technology based on two-photon polymerization is opening up new possibilities in science and industry,” said Julien Cordiero, CEO and co-founder of SFT. “By adding our 2D microstructuring technology to Microlight3D’s portfolio means that customers who are seeking new ways to solve design challenges can greatly benefit from the quality and efficiency of sourcing from a single supplier.”
One area that has the potential to be positively impacted by the combination of 3D and 2D microprinting technologies is microfluidics. While the maskless lithography technology can be used to print the microfluidic channels, micro-features could be integrated during the production using 3D printing. By integrating the two methods in a single piece of equipment, the accuracy and sophistication of microfluidic devices could be improved.