IBM Research in Zurich today unveiled a microscopic 3D printer capable of writing nanometer resolution patterns into a soft polymer, which can subsequently be transferred to silicon, III-V (gallium arsenide — GaAs), or graphene substrates. Unlike electron-beam (e-beam) lithography, the patterns can be both written and read for verification in real-time while the engineer watches under a microscope.
“The big difference when compared to e-beam is that you can easily write 3D patterns, which is extremely challenging for e-beams,” Colin Rawlings, a scientist at IBM Research told EE Times. “The other big difference is its imaging capability — we can read as well as write. After creating a 3D pattern we then turn off the heat to the tip and use it like an AFM [atomic force microscope] to measure with sub-nanometer resolution — allowing us to verify our 3D patterns as well as easily locate structures beneath the polymer layer.”
The microscopic 3D printer is being licensed to Zurich startup SwissLitho AG, which calls it the NanoFrazor — a play on words between the English word razor and the German word for “milling machine,” frase. The NanoFrazor, which behaves like a nanometer resolution milling machine, outperforms e-beams in many ways but costs a fraction of the price — around $500,000, as opposed to to e-beams, which cost from $1.5 million to as much as $30 million. … (Read more)