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University of Amsterdam signs licensing agreement with atum3D

For a method enabling large-scale 3D printing with sub-micron resolution

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The University of Amsterdam has signed a license agreement with Gouda-based atum3D, a company that connects superior DLP technology to cost-effective, high-quality serial manufacturing capabilities. The licensing agreement is for a method enabling fast, large-scale 3D printing with sub-micron resolution. The method, developed at the university’s Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, combines photo- and stereo-lithography to produce high-resolution features at scale. Potential applications include tissue scaffolds for regenerative medicine and devices for microfluidics and chromatography.

University of Amsterdam signs licensing agreement with atum3D. For a method enabling large-scale 3D printing with sub-micron resolution.
Hybrid stereolithography utilizes composite imaging where large-scale, low-resolution patterns are realized using a DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector. Within these layers, pre-defined photomasks enable the realization of micro-features. What’s more, switching photomask patterns between layers can create three-dimensional repetitive micro-features. The method can be implemented in conventional DLP 3D printers with only minor modifications. Materials include photopolymers currently used in stereolithography but can also include composites such as ceramic or metal-laden photopolymers. The method has been demonstrated with a proof-of-principle setup, resulting in printed parts with feature sizes under 10 μm. The theoretical resolution limit, however, is much lower. Image: HIMS.

The method, now licensed to atum3D, combines high-resolution printing with high-speed printing – offering opportunities in many areas, ranging from tissue scaffolds to components for microfluidics and optics. It was invented by Dr. Suhas Nawada, who was, at the time of invention, a post-doctoral researcher at the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences. The patent was applied for in cooperation with the university’s technology transfer office, Amsterdam Innovation Exchange (IXA).

Dubbed ‘hybrid stereolithography’, the method allows for high-resolution 3D printing with substantial sample dimensions, within a noteworthy production time. This enables the production of functional parts in high-value applications such as regenerative medicine, where organ-scale parts could be printed with sub-cellular resolution at a time scale relevant to surgical procedures.

University of Amsterdam signs licensing agreement with atum3D. For a method enabling large-scale 3D printing with sub-micron resolution.
atum3D printers

As an example, a cell scaffold was printed for a multi-centimeter blood vessel junction featuring pores of 50 μm, which is a relevant length scale for the growth of endothelial cells. According to the University of Amsterdam, Tristram Budel, the CTO, and founder of atum3D, is already looking beyond these first results. He reportedly envisions printing a full-sized heart scaffold featuring a controlled porous structure, which would take less than a day to produce. A kidney would take just a quarter of the time.

“Thanks to the scalability of the technology, building a production facility that can reliably and controllably produce organ scaffolds becomes a real possibility,” said Tristram Budel, adding the caveat that a printed organ scaffold is not yet a living organ, and a lot more work and research is needed before an actual implantable organ would be produced. “But I think this definitely is an example that puts this 3D printing technology in perspective.”

Another pilot example of the novel technology is the production of a microfluidic device with 200 μm channels and 20 μm restrictions. These are used to contain and localize chromatographic stationary phase particles, thus opening new possibilities in the field of 3D printed analytical devices. Other end-use sectors include mechanical metamaterials, semiconductors, and porous columns for reactions and separations.

“We think that combining our current DLP technology with this new technology results in a game-changing platform. It brings possibilities that the market has never seen before: combining large decimetre scale printing with micron-size features and all that in just a couple of hours,” said Tristram Budel, adding that atum3D is already building an application, working with the first customers for the new technology. “In fact, here we come full circle as we develop this application together with the researchers at the UvA.’

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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