TNO studies and develops new, and improves existing, Rapid Manufacturing (RM) processes. In (micro)stereolithography a product is constructed in layers by illuminating a liquid. These processes tend to be limited in resolution, construction speed and processable materials. Optimum productivity requires the material, process and equipment to be developed for each application. TNO heads the world in this respect.
Did you realise that hearing aids are nowadays produced by 3D printers? This enables a perfect fitting aid to be made quickly. Unfortunately, 3D printers are not suitable for manufacturing products for each and every application, which has its own set of demands, like material properties. To be able to process these different materials, the process and the corresponding device have to be modified; for other products different processes and materials are needed. TNO develops 3D printers and corresponding materials to make this technology applicable for other products, too.
Most stereolithographic devices construct a product at an average speed of 100 layers per hour. At a thickness per layer of 0.1mm, that's a product height of 10mm p/h. Higher resolutions (and thus thinner layers) mean that the construction speed is even lower. The 'Lepus' devices developed by TNO constructs up to 1200 layers p/h, enabling resolutions of up to 0,025mm at high construction speeds. Specifically for products requiring extreme precision, TNO has developed a process with a resolution of 0,005 mm. This makes it possible to manufacture small, complex products with high-tech product properties. The difference in surface quality with injection moulded products can no longer be observed with the naked eye. In addition to the process and equipment, TNO also develops special materials for micro-stereolithography. Material can be optimised in respect of the functional requirements demanded of the product. TNO also has experience of developing biocompatible and ceramic materials as well as material for lost foam.
Through contract research we can offer companies added value in different ways. The patented technology we have developed allows us to rapidly process high-tech materials into precision products. In processing these materials into a product with a specific application, it is vital that the material and product are attuned to each other in order to arrive at the right device. And that is where our expertise lies.