PARC Secures DARPA Atoms to Products (A2P) Contract to Build Micro-Assembly Printer
Palo Alto, CA — PARC, a Xerox company, today announced it has secured a sizable contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop an assembly manufacturing system – Micro-Assembly Printer – giving designers the ability to print nanotechnology-enabled macroscopic objects, where the “ink” is made up of tiny, smart materials. This technology from PARC aims to provide a radical new low-cost mass-manufacturing capability for smart materials.
“Our vision is that this manufacturing system will allow for the development of new kinds of products with unprecedented complexity at practical speeds,” said Eugene Chow, PARC researcher and project lead. “We’re developing highly sophisticated and integrated digital assembly printers and inks that can disrupt established supply chains to enable customized, local manufacturing of complex, smart structures that bridge nano to macro scales. PARC is building a system that integrates the physics of directed assembly, custom high throughput hardware, and efficient control algorithms.”
The result of the project will be the first digital Micro-Assembly Printer, where the “inks” are micrometer-size nano-functionalized particles and the “image” outputs are millimeter-scale and larger assemblies. In the future the process could be scaled to centimeter and larger scales, like paper printing. The goal is to print smart materials with the throughput and cost of laser printers, but with the precision and functionality of nanotechnology. The printer will enable short-run production of large, engineered, customized microstructures, such as metamaterials with unique optical properties.
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland are partnering with PARC to build the Micro-Assembly Printer system. Boston University, University of Notre Dame and HRL Laboratories are producing nano-inks for the printer
DARPA’s Atoms to Product (A2P) program supports research to develop practical miniaturization and assembly methods at scales 100,000 times smaller than today’s most advanced techniques. Building on PARC’s pioneering work in this field, the focus of this DARPA project is to maximize the diverse nature of the printing process to handle many varieties of “inks” and scale-up the throughput of the system to achieve practical large-area assembly capability.
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