Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

Materials & Chemicals
Materials Chemicals
Small-Scale Powder Deposition for Three-Dimensional MEMS
WARF: P04231US

Inventors: Xiaochun Li, Yong Yang, Hongseok Choi

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a method for fabricating three-dimensional microstructures using a wide range of materials.
Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are ubiquitous—used in car airbags, planes, medical equipment and ink-jet printers. Such devices are manufactured using complex batch fabrication techniques similar to the way integrated circuits are made.

In general, MEMS manufacturing involves the building of mechanical elements (sensors, actuators, etc.) on a common silicon substrate. Yet there are significant drawbacks associated with silicon, including strict process conditions and structural shortcomings. It would be advantageous if MEMS could be built using a wider selection of materials like alloys, polymers and ceramics. Additionally, the next generation of MEMS will require more complex three-dimensional geometry.

Clearly, progress must be made towards developing efficient micromanufacturing techniques to produce new and more structurally complex MEMS.
The Invention
UW–Madison researchers have developed a new process for manufacturing three-dimensional heterogeneous MEMS. In this way, devices can be made from a variety of materials with desirable properties such as improved robustness, ductility and fatigue life.

The new process uses a feed mechanism capable of dispensing small-scale fabrication materials (e.g., dry micro- or nano-powders and biological cells). The material is loaded into a glass capillary and deposited on a substrate with the help of ultrasonic vibrations, which cause the material to discharge in a controlled fashion. A micromachining laser turns the powder into a solid and patterns it.
  • MEMS fabrication
Key Benefits
  • Wider range of materials can be used.
  • Flexible feature size and shape
  • High precision
  • No chemicals
  • Easier processing conditions (i.e., works in air and at room temperature)
  • Better in situ deposition control
  • Utilizes computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Adapts shape deposition manufacturing (SDM) methodology to MEMS fabrication
For current licensing status, please contact Michael Carey at [javascript protected email address] or 608-960-9867