Micro 3D Printing Nozzles for Spectroscopy: Revolutionizing Research with Precision and Speed

Spectroscopy, the study of the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter, plays a vital role in various scientific fields. Researchers often utilize cuvettes, optically-clear containers, to hold liquid samples during spectroscopic analysis. However, in certain applications such as terahertz spectroscopy or dye laser studies, cuvettes can introduce artifacts and hinder accurate analysis. To overcome these limitations, researchers have turned to 3D microprint technology to create precise and customizable nozzles that produce liquid sheets or jets, eliminating the need for cuvettes. 

Challenges in Nozzle Fabrication

Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) can produce small, high-precision nozzles, but it is not easily accessible in research settings, expensive, limited to conductive materials, and unable to create sharp corners. On the other hand, although 3D printers are more common and versatile, most struggle to produce small high-precision parts, especially those with a diameter as small as 0.2 mm. Additionally, conventional 3D printers often have slow print times, hindering quick turnaround requirements, and may exhibit inadequate material properties for certain applications. 

The Quest for a Solution

Adrian Buchmann, a PhD student at the Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) in Germany, encountered these challenges while conducting spectroscopic research. Seeking an alternative to hand-made nozzles, Buchmann discovered Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF) and their cutting-edge technology. 

Enter Projection Micro Stereolithography (PμSL)

To achieve the required precision measured in tens of micrometers, Buchmann turned to BMF’s Projection Micro Stereolithography (PμSL), a form of additive manufacturing. PμSL utilizes a flash of ultraviolet (UV) light to rapidly photopolymerized an entire layer of material, enabling efficient processing and faster build times. BMF’s PμSL also employs specially-formulated liquid polymers with superior mechanical properties. Moreover, BMF’s open material system allows the use of third-party materials, expanding the potential solutions.

3D Microprint Process with BMF MicroArch S240

Buchmann collaborated with BMF to 3D print 18 versions of the required nozzle using the MicroArch S240 3D printer, specifically designed for ultra-high resolution, accuracy, and precision in a desktop package. BMF selected a BASF Forward AM Ultracur® photopolymer resin called RG, known for its durability and transparency in either yellow or black. Each spectroscopic component measured 2.4 × 2.4 × 2 mm³, with a layer height of 10 µm. Impressively, the total print time for all 18 pieces was a mere 4 to 5 hours. The RG photopolymer exhibited well-qualified tensile and flexural properties, making it suitable for withstanding the pressures involved in spectroscopy. BMF successfully delivered all the required parts within a few weeks.

Results and Future Prospects

Adrian Buchmann lauds BMF’s PμSL technology, affirming its ability to deliver the necessary accuracy while rapidly producing diverse specifications in a polymer that withstands the required pressure. Currently, Buchmann is working on an adapter to test the 3D printed nozzles thoroughly. Once the testing phase concludes, an updated case study will provide further insights into the experiment’s outcomes. The integration of 3D microprint technology, particularly PμSL, into spectroscopy research presents a groundbreaking solution. Researchers can now obtain highly precise, customizable, and durable nozzles that replace traditional cuvettes. With its ability to achieve remarkable accuracy and deliver results in.  

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