“With our 3D printers we offer the most precise equipment for microfabircation,” advertises Nanoscribe co-founder and general manager Martin Hermatschweiler. The printer enables users to create extremely tiny 3D objects with dimensions down to a few hundred nanometre while at the same time it offers comprehensive freedom of design, outperforming conventional 3D by several magnitudes, Hermatschweiler claims. The equipment of the Karsruhe, Germany, based startup is utilised in laboratory applications in research areas like photonics, micro-optics, sensor technology and medical technology. Customers include Fraunhofer and Max Planck Institutes as well as US elite universities Harvard and Caltech. Also the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) of which Nanoscribe is a spin-off is among the company’s customers.
The jury was impressed by Nanoscribe’s success since 2007 when the company was launched as KIT’s first spin-off. The idea to initiate a commercial company was born when then students Martin Hermatschweiler and Michael Thiel performed research on photonic crystals.
The Nanoscribe 3D printers make use of the two-phase polymerisation effect: An ultra short pulse laser beam is writing the predetermined structures to an UV-sensitive photoresist, followed by a curing process. Then the structure is immersed into a developer bath, much like in analog photography, where the 3D structures remain while the undesired substrate is washed away. The technology allows production of extremely small optical and mechanical parts such as sensors or microscopic cogwheels. According to Hermatschweiler there is currently no alternative method to produce objects with dimensions significantly smaller than 1 mm at comparable detail exactness and surface smoothness. Potential applications include the production of high-performance lenses for smartphone cameras, optical connections for ultra-fast data transport miniaturised parts in general. The machines can be used to create small series or prototypes as well as moulds for large-series production.
The German Founder Prize will be awarded on June 30, 2015.