Successful Technology Transfer in Micro 3D Printing
DPG Award goes to Nanoscribe and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen Nanoscribe GmbH, together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), specifically its Institute of Nanotechnology (INT) and Innovation Management department, were awarded the Technology Transfer Prize of the DPG (German Physics Association) for successfully transferring research findings into economically successful and useful products.
Nanoscribe, a spin-off of KIT, generated sales in the double-digit millions in 2017 with its high-resolution laser lithography 3D printers for nano- and micromanufacturing. Established in 2007, the company quickly went from a niche segment in science to a global leader in a booming high-tech market. Interest in precision printers is high in the research and industry: “More than 150 of our systems are in use today in over 30 countries worldwide. We started with just four employees and currently have a team of 60,” says Martin Hermatschweiler, CEO and co-founder. The company plans to relocate in late 2019 to the 30-million-euro ZEISS Innovation Hub at KIT. “With this Hub, in close proximity to KIT, Karlsruhe continues to offer companies like Nanoscribe an ideal setting for innovation and successful growth,” Hermatschweiler adds.
A disruptive technology in application
In 3D laser lithography, a computer-controlled laser focus cures structures within a photoresist whose smallest features measure less than a thousandth of a millimeter. The technology is capable, for instance, of printing highly stable materials out of miniature trusses, minute and precise optical micro-lenses, diffractive optics, as well as scaffolds for growing cells in environments that closely imitate the human body. The process was originally developed to fabricate photonic crystals that can be given customized optical properties. Martin Wegener, Professor at KIT’s Institute of Applied Physics and one of the directors of its Institute of Nanotechnology, soon realized that it could essentially be used to manufacture virtually any complex, three-dimensional microstructure. The formation of Nanoscribe as a company allowed this 3D printing tool to be further developed to suit a wide variety of applications, while also taking into account economic considerations.
Emerging applications, rapidly becoming reality, include printed micromachines for transporting immotile – but otherwise healthy – sperm, focusing objectives no wider than a human hair on the tip of glass fibers for minimally invasive endoscopy, and even optical cloaking devices.
Presentation of the Technology Transfer Prize of the DPG (from left to right): Dr. Udo Weigelt (DPG, Board Member Industry and Science), Martin Hermatschweiler (Nanoscribe GmbH), Dr. Jens Fahrenberg (KIT, Innovationsmanagement), Prof. Dr. Martin Wegener (KIT, Institut für Nanotechnologie), Prof. Dr. Edward Georg Krubasik (DPG, Vice President), Prof. Dr. Klaus Richter (DPG, Board Member Scientific Programs, Prizes). Image: DPG