The growing popularity of 3D microprinting is the result of higher demand for smaller and smaller parts. Other options for extremely small parts – microscale machining and injection molding – are more expensive. Microprinting is beneficial for companies needing only limited quantities of parts. The process saves them upfront investment. For some complex product designs, 3D microprinting may be the only capable process. There are challenges, however. Microprinting has issues with inferior resolution unless slower, pricier two-photon printers are used. Furthermore, the stickiness of very small particles poses challenges for microprinting. Finally, there are post-printing issues related to customer expectations, packaging and shipping.
- Microprinting is valuable for rapid injection molding, which usually requires high-precision steel tools that are costly and slow to make.
- The lack of upfront investment makes microprinting useful when only limited quantities of a part are needed.
- Downsides of microprinting relate to inferior resolution, cohesive forces, and the post-printing process.
“Using microprinting in the prototyping process allows testing of the actual part geometry, though not the correct part material.”