When it comes to the manufacture of miniature, low cost tunable Near Infrared (NIR) filters, Unispectral, a Samsung-backed company based in Ramat Gan in Israel, is revolutionising the IR inspection market.
Unispectral’s products add a biometric layer to authentication camera systems, improves facial authentication, enables camera-based material detection and spectrum-based image segmentation and object classification, identifies bank notes and documentation, captures unseen to standard cameras defects in products, coated, electronic and optical parts, detects vital signs for remote medical, and diagnoses plants stress in the field. With unprecedented cost reduction over other spectral cameras, Unispectral is removing the barrier for new mass market adoption of low cost, miniature spectral IR camera.
At the heart of the company’s solution is a tunable Fabry-Pérot filter made using MEMs technology, which is embedded in all cell phones.
Until connecting with micro-3D printing developer Nanofabrica, Unispectral used traditional injection molding technology, as this was the only technology that facilitated the mass manufacture of the adaptors at the precision required. However, using injection molding required a huge investment in time and money (the expensive tooling taking several months to fabricate).
Unispectral now uses the Nanofabrica Tera 250 system to make the adapators. Levin continues, “Nanofabrica is not only able to achieve that 10-micron tolerances that are required, but batches of hundreds of adaptors can be made in 6 hours. In the mobile phone market we have each year very rapid changes and development so we need to adapt quickly, iterate, adjust the design, and with the help of Nanofabrica’s technology we are able to adapt rapidly to various camera model designs. Since we intend to embed our device in mobile phones we are talking about millions of parts per year. We see that with Nanofabrica we can reach these numbers easily.”
Nanofabrica’s industrial micro 3D printing technology allows for the subtle redesign of the adaptor for different mobile phones without the need for expensive tooling. Any design tweaks can be made in the CAD model downloaded to the 3D printer, so mass customisation becomes a reality.
Existing at the interface of 3D printing for production and the industry-wide drive towards miniaturization, Nanofabrica’s industrial micro 3D printing technology lifts the lid for designers and manufacturers in their quest to embrace the inherent advantage of the technology, and enables them to exploit the ability that exists through 3D printing to build complex parts in small, medium, and high volumes in a timely and cost-effective fashion.
The technology is based around a Digital Light Processor (DLP) engine, but to achieve repeatable micron levels of resolution combines DLP with the use of adaptive optics. This tool in conjunction with an array of sensors, allows for a closed feedback loop, the reason that Nanofabrica’s Tera 250 can achieve very high accuracy while remaining cost-effective as a manufacturing solution. In addition, through rigorous R&D, Nanofabrica has managed to develop its own proprietary materials (based on the most commonly used industry polymers) which enable ultra-high resolution in parts built.