BMF announces global launch of microArch 3D printers, appoints ex-UItimaker president to CEO

Boston Micro Fabrication (BMF), a microscale 3D printing specialist, has announced the global launch and rebranding of its microArch 3D printers. 

Previously known as nanoArch, the microArch systems utilizes the company’s proprietary Projection Micro-Stereolithography (PμSL) 3D printing technology to manufacture high-resolution microscale parts. 

BMF has initiated its global launch of the microArch 3D printers following an initial roll-out of the systems in Asia. It also follows two recent updates from the firm: the relocation of its commercial headquarters from Shenzhen, China, to Boston, Massachusetts, and the appointment of John Kawola as CEO, Global Operations, formerly the North American president of Ultimaker. 

“When it comes to additive manufacturing the next frontier of innovation isn’t big, it’s high precision, small parts,” comments John Kawola, CEO at BMF. “We’re seeing a convergence of major trends as the lines between additive manufacturing and miniaturization begin to dissolve. There’s no question that additive manufacturing starts to lose its appeal as parts get smaller.” 

“Challenges with precision and accuracy have stymied innovation for engineers and manufacturers looking to develop small, high-resolution parts. That’s all about to change with the introduction of microArch.”

BMF microArch 3D printer. Photo via BMF.
BMF microArch 3D printer. Photo via BMF.

The development of PμSL 3D printing

BMF was founded in 2016 by Dr. Nick Fang, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He founded the company alongside Dr. Xiaoning He, a serial entrepreneur and Dr. Chunguang Xia, a 3D printing technologist. 

Fang was studying how to use light to print on a polymer or plastic material, which led to the development of the PμSL 3D printing technology. PµSL combines stereolithography and projection lithography techniques and UV flash to 3D print high resolution microstructures reportedly at a scale more than 100 times smaller than a human hair. The microArch P150 3D printer, for example, is capable of printing down to a resolution of 2µm. This precise printing at a micro scale can be useful in a number of applications, including product development, research and industrial short run production. 

Initially, a team was established in Shenzhen by co-founders Xiaoning He and Chunghia Xia to develop the technology. As well as setting up new commercial headquarters in Boston, BMF also has offices in Tokyo, Japan.

PµSL is used to power the entire microArch series of 3D printers. Prior to the global launch, the first microArch 3D printers shipped in 2019 to customers in China. Since then, over 40 systems have been installed for multiple customers in Asia across a range of industries. 

“We are very excited to own the first microArch 3D printer in Europe,” said Dr. Yinfeng He of the University of Nottingham. “The microArch from BMF has a good compensation between printing resolution and processing speed, which provides us with a fantastic tool in the production of customized geometries. The arrival of this machine will help boost our current research in electronics and biomedical devices.”

The microArch P150. Photo via BMF.

Applications of PμSL

PµSL technology is compatible with a variety of different materials like tough resin, elastic resin, casting resin, high temperature resin and more. BMF states that such material versatility means that engineers and designers, particularly in the medical and electronics industries, can benefit from the flexibility to experiment with rapid prototyping. Prior to the launch of its 3D printing systems, BMF’s main operations revolved around providing its micro scale 3D printing technology as a service.

“As devices and parts get smaller, the need for accuracy and precision grows even more important and, until now, more difficult to achieve,” added Kawola. “Prior to microArch, there were a number of economical and technological limitations that made it near impossible for manufacturers to capitalize on the benefits of 3D printing for small parts. We’re eliminating those limitations with a new approach that we expect to have a big impact.”  

Other companies that provide nano and micro-scale 3D printing technology include the German firm Nanoscribe, which provides systems that leverage two-photon polymerization technology to produce parts with resolutions as low as 200 nanometers.  Nanofabrica, a Tel Aviv-based developer of precision additive manufacturing technologies, also recently commercialized its micron-level resolution 3D printing technology. Its technology is based on a Digital Light Processing (DLP) engine, and Adaptive Optics (AO), a technology used to improve image distortions in optical devices such as telescopes.

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows BMF microArch 3D printer. Photo via BMF.

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