Laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) of water soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) polymers for use as support material for 3D-printed structures

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    The additive microfabrication method of laser-induced forward transfer (LIFT) permits the creation of functional microstructures with feature sizes down to below a micrometre [1]. Compared to other additive manufacturing techniques, LIFT can be used to deposit a broad range of materials in a contactless fashion. LIFT features the possibility of building out of plane features, but is currently limited to 2D or 2½D structures [2–4]. That is because printing of 3D structures requires sophisticated printing strategies, such as mechanical support structures and post-processing, as the material to be printed is in the liquid phase. Therefore, we propose the use of water-soluble materials as a support (and sacrificial) material, which can be easily removed after printing, by submerging the printed structure in water, without exposing the sample to more aggressive solvents or sintering treatments. Here, we present studies on LIFT printing of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) polymer thin films via a picosecond pulsed laser source. Glass carriers are coated with a solution of PVA (donor) and brought into proximity to a receiver substrate (glass, silicon) once dried. Focussing of a laser pulse with a beam radius of 2 µm at the interface of carrier and donor leads to the ejection of a small volume of PVA that is being deposited on a receiver substrate. The effect of laser pulse fluence , donor film thickness and receiver material on the morphology (shape and size) of the deposits are studied. Adhesion of the deposits on the receiver is verified via deposition on various receiver materials and via a tape test. The solubility of PVA after laser irradiation is confirmed via dissolution in de-ionised water. In our study, the feasibility of the concept of printing PVA with the help of LIFT is demonstrated. The transfer process maintains the ability of water solubility of the deposits allowing the use as support material in LIFT printing of complex 3D structures. Future studies will investigate the compatibility (i.e. adhesion) of PVA with relevant donor materials, such as metals and functional polymers. References: [1] A. Piqué and P. Serra (2018) Laser Printing of Functional Materials. Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA. [2] R. C. Y. Auyeung, H. Kim, A. J. Birnbaum, M. Zalalutdinov, S. A. Mathews, and A. Piqué (2009) Laser decal transfer of freestanding microcantilevers and microbridges, Appl. Phys. A, vol. 97, no. 3, pp. 513–519. [3] C. W. Visser, R. Pohl, C. Sun, G.-W. Römer, B. Huis in ‘t Veld, and D. Lohse (2015) Toward 3D Printing of Pure Metals by Laser-Induced Forward Transfer, Adv. Mater., vol. 27, no. 27, pp. 4087–4092. [4] J. Luo et al. (2017) Printing Functional 3D Microdevices by Laser-Induced Forward Transfer, Small, vol. 13, no. 9, p. 1602553.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2018
    Event19th International Symposium on Laser Precision Microfabrication 2018 - Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    Duration: 25 Jun 201828 Jun 2018
    Conference number: 19


    Conference19th International Symposium on Laser Precision Microfabrication 2018
    Abbreviated titleLPM2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • PVA
    • Laser-induced forward transfer
    • polymers
    • Sacrificial structures
    • laser machining
    • Additive Manufacturing


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