Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

USC Process Will Mass-Produce Micromechanical Devices Like A Printing Press

Date:
April 28, 1999
Source:
University Of Southern California
Summary:
The University of Southern California engineer is developing a process to mass-produce tiny mechanical and electromechanical devices with complex features smaller than the width of a human hair.

Adam Cohen is taking big steps to make very small things on a large scale.

The University of Southern California engineer is developing a process to mass-produce tiny mechanical and electromechanical devices with complex features smaller than the width of a human hair.

"Our process — called EFAB, for electrochemical fabrication — produces complex, three-dimensional microdevices quickly and economically without cleanroom facilities," says Cohen, a project leader at the USC School of Engineering's Information Sciences Institute. "Currently, micromechanical and microelectronic devices are limited in shape and must be manufactured manually in a costly cleanroom — often through a custom process that's expensive and difficult to develop."

Cohen points out that EFAB integrates micromechanics with microelectronics better than current technology because the temperature of the manufacturing process is relatively low, about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. "Thus," he says, "it would be ideal for producing sophisticated systems on a chip."

Cohen and a team of USC engineers recently used the EFAB process to fabricate a metal chain which, at 290 microns wide, may be the world's narrowest. All of its joints are fully articulated and movable. Instead of painstakingly assembling the chain one link at a time, the scientists used EFAB to make the entire 14-link chain in a single process.

EFAB is inspired by an industrial process called rapid prototyping. Instead of machining a model from a solid block, rapid prototyping uses an additive approach by stacking up a series of thin layers (usually made of plastic) that adhere to one another to form a three-dimensional object. Typically, objects made by rapid prototyping have dimensions measured in centimeters, with material deposited in layers tenths of millimeters thick.

EFAB creates much smaller objects with layers that are measured in thousandths of millimeters, and those layers are solid metal rather than plastic.

"You can make more complex designs by stacking layers than you can by machining or casting, and the EFAB process can be fully automated," says Cohen.

Currently, the USC team usually works with layers that are five to eight microns thick, but Cohen says they can make layers that are less than a micron. (A micron is a millionth of a meter, and human hairs are 50 to 100 microns in diameter.)

Each layer is made by depositing metal through a prefabricated patterned mask —similar to the way a printing plate applies ink to paper. The masks for all of the layers can be produced simultaneously from computer data, and the layers are then deposited one at a time.

"This is not like an assembly line which manufactures products one at a time from individual parts," says Cohen. "It's like a form of printing where an entire complex device is made by piling one slice on top of another until the unit is complete. With EFAB tens or even hundreds of thousands of finished products can be made at the same time using a single process."

Micromechanical devices have been limited to fabrications no more than five layers thick. The USC team has already made 12-layer devices. But when the process is fully automated, Cohen says, EFAB should be able to produce devices with hundreds or thousands of layers.

"When we finish automating the process, our manufacturing machine will be able to run unattended at high speed and it will be practical to do many more layers," he explains. "EFAB is also very versatile, like casting or machining. Manufacturers won't have to invent a new process for each new design, as is currently the case with microdevices."

Cohen says EFAB technology could manufacture many existing products faster and more economically through miniaturization and batch fabrication.

"For example, I think the mechanism for a bar-code scanner, which currently costs $50 to $100 to produce, could be mass- produced for less than $1 with EFAB," he says. "I believe we could make coronary stents, which are used to keep arteries open, for under $5 with EFAB mass-production technology. It costs about $100 to manufacture them now, because they're made one at a time by precision machining."

Cohen says that EFAB could facilitate the production of tiny devices that are practical only if large quantities can be produced at low unit costs. Examples include sensors for detecting the imminent failure of bridges, alleviating highway congestion or helping to predict weather or even earthquakes. Tiny wing actuators could reduce turbulence and cut aircraft fuel consumption.

Other members of the USC development team are senior mechanical engineer Uri Frodis, senior process development engineer Fan-Gang Tseng, and Gang Zhang, a doctoral candidate in materials science.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Administration's Defense Sciences Office is funding development of EFAB.

Early access to EFAB technology will be made available through USC/ISI's newly established EFAB Consortium, which will promote the technology and provide members with prototype devices, based on their own designs. Individuals or companies may contact the USC Office of Patent and Copyright Administration at (213) 743-2282 regarding licensing opportunities for the patent pending process.

For more information, point your browser to http://www.isi.edu/efab.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Southern California. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Southern California. "USC Process Will Mass-Produce Micromechanical Devices Like A Printing Press." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990428065001.htm>.
University Of Southern California. (1999, April 28). USC Process Will Mass-Produce Micromechanical Devices Like A Printing Press. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990428065001.htm
University Of Southern California. "USC Process Will Mass-Produce Micromechanical Devices Like A Printing Press." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990428065001.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) — Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

What This MIT Sensor Could Mean For The Future Of Robotics

Newsy (Sep. 20, 2014) — MIT researchers developed a light-based sensor that gives robots 100 times the sensitivity of a human finger, allowing for "unprecedented dexterity." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) — Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins