3-dimensional surfaces with features below 100 nanometres have numerous applications ranging from optics to life sciences. The development of new manufacturing processes, based on nanoimprinting techniques (NIL), is a core aspect for the success of these applications. But what are the most innovative ideas and tools needed to bring Europe to the forefront of this market? How do we bridge the gap between basic research on 3-D nanolithography and its uptake from the industry? Which are the main applications that would make this technology become a backbone for high volume production? Which steps are needed to complete the value-chain in Europe? Over 70 professionals of the field coming from both the public and private sectors recently met in Berlin to address these questions.
The opportunity came from the European R&D project "NAPANIL - Nanopatterning, Productions and Applications, based on Nanoimprinting Lithography", which held its first Industrial Day on 6 April 2011 in the heart of Berlin, Alexanderplatz, hosted by the German company micro resist technology GmbH. Among the participants, 25 representatives of the project, together with 50 participants from other institutions (26 participants from the industry and 24 participants from technical institutes), explored the potentials, limitations and expected impact of nanoimprint lithography on the market. This was achieved through a series of talks and discussions that paved the way for several collaborations oriented to the exploitation of 3-D nanoimprinting market.
Several applications of Nanoimprint Lithography were discussed, such as intelligent displays in the automotive sector, presented by Vito G. Lambertini from FIAT, or optics and optoelectronics, by C. Moorman from AMO Research in Germany and M. Tormen from the TASC Laboratory for Advanced Technologies and Nanosciences in Italy; other topics included an overview of the market on functional films provided by Nanoptics. But the presentations delivered by experts were not the only activities carried out at the Industrial Day, they were complemented by networking activities including the display of several posters on NAPANIL research lines, around which participants engaged in group discussions. This lead to the identification of other interesting applications related to NIL, among which biomedical diagnostics and other sensing applications are key subjects.
The expectations for the future of 3-D nanoimprinting were diverse; however, the highest priority is seen in cost-efficient products with novel or improved functionalities. In the first place, this is done by the up-scaling of 3D nanoimprinting to large areas and high throughput by making use of new tools and materials. The integration of these processes into the complete value-chain of manufacturing needs further efforts at European level. For this, the audience recommended the selection of new products for which the NIL process supplies a differential approach in terms of cost-efficiency or process capablilities of obtaining the desired pattern. As a conclusion, innovation can only come through the involvement of end users in this exploration phase and the analysis of the key issues that would enable to complete the value-chain including modeling, tools, materials, stamps and full process control.
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, and the possibility of a second event before the end of the project is now being considered.
Institut Català de Nanotecnologia