Two-photon polymerization (TPP) has become one of the most popular techniques for stereolithography at very high resolutions. When printing relatively large structures at high resolutions, one of the main limiting factors is the printing time. The purpose of this paper is to present a new slicing algorithm to minimize printing times.
Typically, slicing algorithms used for TPP do not take into account the fact that TPP can print at a range of resolutions (i.e. with different heights and diameters) by varying parameters such as exposure time, laser power, photoresist properties and optical arrangements. This work presents multiresolution layered manufacturing (MLM), a novel slicing algorithm that processes 3D structures to separate parts manufacturable at low resolution from those that require a higher resolution.
MLM can significantly reduce the printing time of 3D structures at high resolutions. The maximum theoretical speed-up depends on the range of printing resolutions, but the effective speed-up also depends on the geometry of each 3D structure.
MLM opens the possibility to significantly decrease printing times, potentially opening the use of TPP to new applications in many disciplines such as microfluidics, metamaterial research or wettability.
There are many instances of previous research on printing at several resolutions. However, in most cases, the toolpaths have to be manually arranged. In some cases, previous research also automates the generation of toolpaths, but they are limited in various ways. MLM is the first algorithm to comprehensively solve this problem for a wide range of true 3D structures.
The first author has been supported by NANO3D, a BEWARE Fellowship from the Walloon Region, Belgium. The research has been partially funded by the Interuniversity Attraction Poles Programme (IAP 7/38 MicroMAST) from the Belgian Science Policy Office, the Walloon Region and the FNRS. We thank the BEAMS department of the University of Brussels, and specifically Pierre Lambert, Youen Vitry and Sam Dehaeck, who let the authors use their 3D printer and provided invaluable assistance. The first author also thanks his wife Elisa and his children Isabel and Jose for bringing the best out of him.
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