Liquid droplet alignment of additively manufactured micro components
Start: October 2011
Student: James Overton
Supervisors: Simon Lawes, Svetan Ratchev
This project focuses on the development of new approaches and predictive methods for the alignment of meso-scale parts by liquid droplet alignment. Taking advantage of the excellent high resolution 3D printing facilities within the Advanced Manufacturing Research Group. This work is developing a number of novel structures for aligning 3D parts with high aspect ratio, pushing micro-droplet alignment beyond the 2D alignment tasks where it is usually applied.
Micro-droplet liquid alignment is a well-known method for aligning small components, typically in the semiconductor industry where parts are less than 1mm in size, and the ratio of a parts height to base dimensions is normally well below 1. At these scales the system is dominated by surface forces, and external forces such as gravity have little impact. Geometries are simple and the alignment all occurs on one plane. Some work has been done in the more complex environment of micro-droplet liquid alignment in the field of micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), and lessons have been learned about how to develop droplet binding sites in lithographic production processes.
However, as the scale of the parts, their geometric complexity and their aspect ratio increases, the lessons learned from these industries may no longer apply. This work considers components with dimensions greater than 1mm, high aspect ratio and alignment to multiples planes. Opening up opportunities for the low cost manufacture of complex micro/meso scale structures, with immediate application for systems such as micro-optical benches.