RMIT stakes claim to 'world's first' rapid 3D nanoscale printer

Melbourne's RMIT University is set to play host to what it claims will be the "world's first" rapid 3D nanoscale printer, following the launch last week of its new AU$30 million MicroNano Research Facility.

A new AU$30 million research facility launched last week by Melbourne's RMIT University is set to house what the university claims will be the "world's first" rapid 3D nanoscale printer.

The new MicroNano Research Facility (MNRF) was launched at the university's city campus in Melbourne's CBD by vice-chancellor and president Margaret Gardner, who said the opening of the new laboratories and clean rooms is the start of an exciting new chapter in cross-disciplinary nano research.

"At the heart of the MicroNano Research Facility's mission is bringing together disparate disciplines to enable internationally leading research activity," said Gardner. "RMIT has long been a pioneer in this field, opening Australia's first academic clean rooms at the Microelectronics and Materials Technology Centre in 1983.

"Over three decades later, this investment in the world-class MNRF will enable RMIT's leading researchers to continue to break new ground and transform the future," she said.

The AU$30 million MicroNano Research Facility. Image: RMIT University

Among the equipment available to researchers in the 1,200 square-metre facility will be the rapid 3D nanoscale printer, which, according to the university, will be capable of producing thousands of structures — each a fraction of the width of a human hair — in seconds.

Director of the MNRF James Friend said that 10 research teams would work at the new facility on a broad range of projects, including the development of energy harvesting techniques that change the way batteries are recharged, and the building of miniaturised motors to retrieve blood clots from deep within the brain.

"This facility is all about ensuring researchers have the freedom to imagine and safely realise the impossible at tiny scales and beyond," said Friend, who is also a vice-chancellor's senior research fellow in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

"Having access to purpose-designed laboratories and leading-edge equipment opens tremendous opportunities for RMIT and for those we collaborate with, enabling us to advance the development of truly smart technology solutions to some of our most complex problems," he said.

The launch of the new research centre comes as Australian additive manufacturing technology company 3D Group embarks on research into utilising graphite-derived graphene in nanoscale 3D-printing applications.