German company Nanoscribe Nanoscribe began developing and producing high-precision 3D printing solutions enabling the micro-optics industry to innovate by additive manufacturing. Typically, the benefits of additive manufacturing are considered to be fast and flexible design iterations as well as freedom of design. But the usual 3D printing technologies available in the market fail to meet the resolution and precision requirements of optical applications.
Using two-photon polymerization (2PP) 3D printing technology, Nanoscribe develops and produces high-precision 3D printing solutions enabling research and industry to innovate by additive manufacturing. Previously, the resolution and precision that is needed in the fabrication of micro-optical components was not provided by conventional additive manufacturing technologies.
Using Nanoscribe’s 3D printer Photonic Professional GT, which is based on two-photon-polymerization, a broad range of almost arbitrary micro-optical shapes including standard refractive micro-optics, freeform optics, diffractive optical elements or even multiplet lens systems can now be printed in a one-step process. Hence, Nanoscribe’s 3D printing solution disrupts and breaks with previously complex workflows, overcomes long-standing design limitations and enables unprecedented applications driven by advanced micro-optics.
Multi-photon polymerization by means of Nanoscribe’s direct laser writing systems allows for the fabrication of complex and replicable 2.5D structures. Polymer micro-optics can be used as moulds for replication or masters for pattern transfer. The key advantage compared to 2.5D gray scale lithography or 2D UV-exposure and subsequent reflow techniques is clear: arbitrary complex shapes can be fabricated in one single step. These can be refractive optics such as arrays of aspheres, diffractive optics such as Fresnel lenses or even stacked micro-lenses.
In addition, negative-tone resists may be used which are less sensitive to the development process compared to positive-tone resists – thus allowing for high reproducibility of the complete process chain. Furthermore, micro-optics of up to several 100 µm height can be fabricated with optimal resolution. A sub-category of 2.5D structures are freeform surfaces. Here, arbitrarily complex surfaces can be written by two-photon polymerization – including closed surfaces with undercuts, micro-optics of complex shape and calibration samples.