Universities and research groups called for better and more affordable deposition methods, for example spin coating, and Stensborg, nanotechnology engineering experts from Roskilde, Denmark, answered with a modified Epson Inkjet Printer. A new way to deposit UV resin for NIL applications.

The engineering team at Stensborg has certainly raised the inkjet technology bar with their new innovative launch. Strategically designed for ‘entry-level’ use to spearhead university and research education/prototyping, an off-the-shelf product, the Epson Inkjet printer, was modified, to enable users to reduce cost, and pave the way for a seamless upscaling transition as they master the art of the trade.

Image credit: Stensborg A/S

The Epson Inkjet Printer Story

Inkjet technology is exceptionally versatile, with a strong variety of resources to select from. However, it was no secret to the Stensborg team that there was a prevalent disparity between inkjet printing and its startup cost. Naturally, higher quality and complex designs/spinners called for higher price tags, which can be a hefty conundrum for entry-level users of nanoimprint lithography.

But one day, while applying thin layers of resin, Stensborg posed the idea of developing a printer that could deliver the best of both worlds for those uprising users – programmable printing to optimise resin deposition without needing to endure the cost for higher-tiered inkjet technology. From there, the round table collaborations on developing a tangible design began in June of 2020, with brief restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. After trial and error, the team, including a Stensborg engineer, Karlis Petersons, discovered a configuration that worked, and it was later picked up by Kevin Jensen, a lab assistant, to continue to develop the idea.

Under the guidance of CTO Leif Yde and Karlis, Kevin successfully took the initial design and integrated more advanced modifications, including software updates. This dedication enabled the project to transform from blueprint to a palpable reality to refer to. This soon became the catalyst for the team to begin performing deposition with inkjet, as they recognised the “entry-level’’ inkjet deposition for technical applications, such as R&D-related printheads, were often prohibitively expensive. During the search for more budget-friendly resin-deposition alternatives, Karlis posed the question of home user commercial inkjet printers instead.

“There are various commercial inkjet printers for a home user. They are significantly more affordable: can we use them?”

- Karlis Petersons, Engineer, Stensborg - Engineer
This innovative thinking led to the team finding affordable refillable inkjet printers, aka the Epson eco tank series. With them not being prohibitively expensive, the group agreed that the Epson Inkjet printer was worth giving a try. And the disruptive idea did not disappoint. After utilising the simple, functional design with Stensborg’s own resin, the team’s expectations were significantly exceeded, confirming that imprinting their resin on foils was just as effective as on normal printing materials.
Fast forward to today, the Stensborg team is exceptionally excited to be able to share this inkjet solution, showcasing that universities and research groups do not have to spend excessive money for a sophisticated option to practice with. Though the Epson Inkjet printer may not have the same calibre as commercial-grade brands, it has proven to be perfect for higher educational purposes and prototyping work with nanoimprint lithography. Coupling that with the improved x-y coordinate system has allowed users to control where to deposit the resin instead of using a spinner, which coats the entire surface of a substrate.
To date, the Epson Inkjet Printer has cutting-edge yet mindful approaches, and the team is continuously working on new ways to enhance the controlling elements and incorporate modifications. Though the Epson Inkjet Printer has already left lasting impressions, Stensborg has inevitably created an innovation ripple effect – making it exciting to see what new technologies and advancements will stem from this newfound centre point.
To learn more about Stensborg and the Epson Inkjet Printer innovation, please contact the team at www.stensborg.com/contact.