The development of new applications based on nanoimprinting techniques (NIL) is evolving at a rapid pace.
But what are the challenges to be overcome in order to reach the market? How do we bridge the gap between basic research and its uptake from the industry? What are the tools needed for each product?
Numerous applications ranging from consumer goods to security tags to life science products were discussed by more than 80 professionals of the field coming from both the public and private sectors. Once more, Berlin was the venue for the second NaPANIL Industrial Day hosted this year by micro resist technology GmbH on February the 28th, where all these questions were addressed.
After the success of its first Industrial Day on 6 April 2011, a new record of participants, especially from industry, was achieved. 84 participants (43% participants from industry, 57% from academia), willing to explore the potentials, limitations and expected impact of nanoimprint lithography on the market met 11 months later at the same location.
Several applications of Nanoimprint Lithography were presented, such as toys with coloured surfaces presented by Per Høvsgaard, Senior Director of the Mechatronics and Prototyping department of LEGO System A/S; intelligent displays in the automotive sector, presented by Vito G. Lambertini from FIAT; nanopatterning to fight counterfeiting, presented by Lars Lindvold from Stensborg A/S; applications in the biomedical field as biosensors or implants, presented by Johnny Stormonth-Darling from the University of Glasgow. Moreover, the challenges in the development of production tools and materials were also discussed. Step and repeat, e-beam lithography, injection moulding and roll-to-roll developments were presented by several speakers, from companies such as EVG, Vistec Philips, and Nanoptics, who showed their latest achievements.
The development of these tools faces novel challenges in terms of tolerances, metrology or specific processes but benefits in quality, environmental and health issues have also been detected. Thus, 3-dimensional surface topographies with features below 100 nanometre, the combination of micrometre and nanometre scale processes as well as novel materials developed for polymer stamps for high aspect ratio developments or high etch resistance were also explained.
The presentations delivered by experts were not the only activities carried out at the Industrial Day; indeed, they were complemented by networking activities including the display of several posters on NaPANIL research lines around which participants engaged in group discussions.
The up-scaling of nanoimprinting to large areas and high-throughput by using new tools and materials is now foreseen as the best solution for new products where NIL processes supply a unique approach in terms of cost-efficiency or capabilities of obtaining the desired pattern. As a conclusion, the evolution in the innovation carried out at European level in NIL is allowing to bridge the gap needed in order to achieve a general uptake by industry. The industrial participants are now willing to exploit this technology in their products and/or activities.
The second NaPANIL Industrial Day raised high interest and proved to be an effective way of enabling professionals in technology and industrial players to share their diverse, yet complementary perspectives. The feedback from the industry after the event has been extremely positive not only the networking activities have evolved into new collaborations, but also, the fact that a new edition of the Industrial Day has been encouraged.
NaPANIL (contract no 214249), is a large-scale collaborative research project funded by the European Commission under the FP7 NMP theme. Its team is composed of 16 partners representing both the industrial pull and the technology push of the project. Its work is structured into four sub projects dealing with the core activities of the project, such as Applications and Demonstrations, Exploratory Processes, Manufacturing Technology and Modelling and Metrology. The expertise of each member of the group is complementary to one another in the ambitious goal of the project, which is to obtain three industrial demonstrators to bring 3D nanopatterning manufacturing technologies and design to the market, and to drive the next wave of innovation in these techniques and related applications. The project started in May 2008 and will end in April 2012.