Posted: May 22nd, 2012 Nano injection molding – making microscopic machines using metallicglass ( Nanowerk News ) Researchers in Ireland have developed a new technology usingmaterials called bulk metallic glasses to produce high-precisionmolds for making tiny plastic components. The components, withdetailed microscopically patterned surfaces could be used in thenext generation of computer memory devices and microscale testingkits and chemical reactors. In their article published in the latest edition of the open accessjournal Materials Today ( “Towards nano injection molding” ), Michael Gilchrist, David Browne and colleagues at UniversityCollege Dublin explain how bulk metallic glasses (BMGs) werediscovered about thirty years ago. These materials are a type ofmetal alloy, but instead of having a regular, crystalline structurelike an everyday metal such as iron or an alloy like bronze, thematerial’s atoms are arranged haphazardly. This disordered, oramorphous atomic structure is similar to the amorphous structure ofthe silicon and oxygen atoms in the glass we use for windows anddrinking vessels. Heavy Duty Truck Diagnostic Scanner
The haphazard arrangement of atoms in BMGs means that they havesome very different mechanical properties from conventional metals.They can be heated and molded like plastics and they can bemachined with microscopic precision below the grain size ofconventional metals. BMGs also retain the strength and durabilityof normal metals. Gilchrist and his colleagues have now exploited the haphazardnature of the atoms in BMGs to allow them to machine microscopicfeatures on to the surface of a BMG. This is not possible withconventional metals such as tool steel used in molds which cannottypically be machined with better than 10 micrometer precisionbecause of its crystalline grain structure. They have then used theresulting strong and durable metallic devices to carry outinjection molding of plastic components with microscopic surfacepatterns using a straightforward tool production route. Gm Tech2 Scanner Manufacturer
“Our technology is a new process for mass producing high-valuepolymer components, on the micrometer and nanometer-scale,”explains Gilchrist. “This is a process by which high-volumequantities of plastic components can be mass produced with onehundred times more precision, for costs that are at least ten timescheaper than currently possible.” The research team explains that with BMG injection moldingequipment it is now possible to create millimeter-sized polymercomponents that have surface features of a similar size tomammalian cells at 10 micrometers or even the smallest viruses atless than 100 nanometers. The new manufacturing process could thusallow ‘lab-on-a-chip’ devices to be constructed that could handleand test samples containing single cells and viruses or largebiomolecules including DNA and proteins. “These precision plastic parts are the high value components ofmicrofluidic devices, lab-on-chip diagnostic devices, microimplantable components and MEMS sensors,” Gilchrist adds. Once the technology is extended to the tens of nanometers lengthscale, the team suggests that it could be used to make high-volume,low-cost, information storage systems. Car Electronics Products Manufacturer
The team is currentlyoptimizing their technology with this goal in mind. The research team concludes, “The worldwide trend ofminiaturization means that these devices and components are gettingprogressively smaller and smaller; the problem faced by today’stechnologies is that they will soon be unable to manufacture atthese smaller dimensions at competitive prices. If you justconsider the microfluidic devices market without the biologicalcontent: this is forecast to reach $5 billion by 2016.”.