new frontier for piezoelectric drop-on-demand inkjet technology.
Imagine manufacturing methods that operate at microscopic
scales and are versatile enough to produce flexible printed electronics,
photovoltaic structures, flat-panel displays, backplanes, RFIDs, smart tags,
sequences of genetic material, or chemical and biological sensors.
Welcome to materials deposition, the new frontier in high-technology
manufacturing, where the materials deposited can range from UV-curable
light-emitting polymers and conductive fluids to organic “inks” and DNA, and
the thickness often must be controlled to within a few ten-millionths of a
It’s also where drop-on-demand inkjet, or Piezo DOD - a technology
traditionally associated with wide-format printing - is quickly finding
acceptance on the materials-deposition scene as a viable and often valuable
Inkjet: The Perfect Deposition Technology
Broadly defined, the practice of materials deposition
involves any method used to deposit a thin film of material onto a substrate or
previously deposited layers on a substrate.
Piezo DOD inkjet for graphics printing certainly fits this basic definition.
Graphics printing involves depositing thin films of ink to form text and images
of various colors on paper, vinyl or similar substrates, thereby producing a
Piezo DOD inkjet printheads are also fast and accurate. For example,
precision-manufactured FUJIFILM Dimatix Spectra®
printheads can jet inks for industrial printing applications at frequencies
exceeding 20,000 cycles/second (20 kHz) and at print speeds of 1.5 meters per
second. Each nozzle can fire ink droplets on demand, simultaneously on each
cycle and virtually without “crosstalk,” straight and true to their intended
Piezo DOD inkjet can also eliminate manufacturing steps and reduces consumable
usage and chemical waste. As a digital technology, inkjet production startup
costs are comparatively low, and expensive materials like liquid silver and DNA
are optimized by jetting them only where they’re needed.
A Quantum Leap
To compete in the rarefied atmosphere of high-technology
process manufacturing, Piezo DOD must be considerably more precise than the
technology used for producing print.
For example, materials deposition demands droplet-sized tolerances exceeding
those used for print production by orders of magnitude. Instead of jetting ink
at the 30-80 picoliter droplet sizes common to print production,
high-technology materials deposition routinely requires fluid “drop” sizes of
10 picoliters (10 trillionths of a liter), and often 1 pL or less.
High-tech materials deposition also requires inkjet printheads to handle a
comparatively wide variety of fluids for a virtually unlimited range of
applications, onto a broader range and type of substrates, and at temperatures
that often must be controlled more closely (see Table, p. 21). Traditional
Piezo DOD inkjet, in short, had to take a quantum leap to be suitable for
handling high-tech materials deposition.
The Shaped Piezo Silicon MEMS Breakthrough
FUJIFILM Dimatix (then known as Spectra Inc.) introduced its
Shaped Piezo SiliconTM
MEMS fabrication technology at
Drupa in 2004. MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS) is an advanced
manufacturing method that uses techniques similar to those used in fabricating
integrated circuits to create ultra-miniature inkjet structures within silicon.
In developing this method, FUJIFILM Dimatix took MEMS technology one step
further. By manufacturing an entire printhead assembly on a silicon wafer -
basically a printhead on a chip - the Shaped Piezo Silicon method produced a
new generation of printheads capable of supporting a range of fluids, from
traditional inks to various functional fluids such as nanoparticle-based
Unlike some deposition methods that flood a surface with functional fluids,
inkjet is both precise and additive, able to deposit the exact amount of
material at the exact locations where it is needed, without waste. This
precision makes it unnecessary to image and pattern, etch and recover waste
material, enhancing inkjet’s attractiveness for use with aggressive,
conductive, and reactive fluids and coatings that often must be deposited at
precision locations and in precisely controlled amounts.
FUJIFILM Dimatix’ advance in manufacturing engineering transformed Piezo DOD
from a method primarily suited for industrial print production to one that also
offers unique possibilities and advantages for materials deposition and nanotechnology
Building in a New Direction
To commercialize its breakthrough technology, in May 2005
FUJIFILM Dimatix opened its Silicon Valley headquarters, including an Advanced Development Center
and silicon MEMS fabrication facility. In June 2005, the company (founded in
1984 as Spectra Inc.) was renamed Dimatix to reflect its expansion into digital
The company’s patented Piezo DOD inkjet printheads were already known for their
ability to sustainably jet ink and many other fluids precisely and at high
frequencies, without trading off drop placement accuracy; and for their high
duty cycles and long life - traits that allow OEMs and systems integrators to
design advanced systems for industrial print production that are fast,
reliable, and economical.
In 2006, FUJIFILM Dimatix was awarded a Nano 50TM
from Nanotech Briefs®
its Dimatix Materials Printer, placing it in an elite group of technologies,
products and innovators that have or will significantly impact key
nanotechnology markets, from automotive and electronics to biomedical and
Also in 2006, the company was presented with the first-ever Silicon
Emerging Technology Award, which it won in the
Biotechnology category for its development of the DMP. The Emerging Technology
Awards recognize Silicon Valley companies
creating and bringing to market cutting-edge technologies that have the
potential to profoundly impact people and businesses.
The strength of FUJIFILM Dimatix’ core inkjet printhead technologies, plus its
development of Shaped Piezo Silicon MEMS and the Dimatix Materials Printer and
Cartridge, is helping move materials deposition out of the lab and into the
mainstream by using new methods to fabricate a new generation of products not
possible only a few years ago.
For more information, visit www.dimatix.com.
Spectra is a registered trademark, and Dimatix, Merlin, Shaped Piezo Silicon,
and Tapestry are trademarks of FUJIFILM Dimatix Inc.