January 9, 2024
Professor Matt Maschmann (center) and Elliott Leiinauer (fourth from left) watch a demonstration of the new Nanoscribe Quantum X Shape high-resolution 3D printer in Lafferre Hall. Mizzou Engineering is one of the few US companies that has this printer.
Researchers at Mizzou have spent eight years trying to find a way to create a complex microfluidic filter that would allow doctors to efficiently harvest cancer cells from patients’ blood without harming the cells.
They can now easily make a prototype thanks to a new high-resolution Nanoscribe Quantum X Shape 3D printer from Mizzou Engineering.
“We have been working on producing a new design since 2021, and this printer demonstrated in a demonstration that it can do this in 20 seconds,” said Elliott Leinauer, a Ph.D. Electrical engineering student.
Quantum prototyping and wafer-scale processing of any 3D shape. It is the fastest and most accurate 3D printer for demanding micro-manufacturing tasks on the market.
Mizzou Engineering is one of the few companies in the U.S. that has the printer and one of fewer than 100 worldwide.
“The significance of the Nanoscribe printer is that it can print at resolutions smaller than the fundamental length scale of many interesting engineering problems, including biological cells and even the wavelength of light,” said Matt Maschmann, associate professor of mechanical engineering and air – and space technology. “At the same time, it can produce patterns up to 3 inches in diameter, making it a very robust tool for many applications.”
The Nanoscribe can print at resolutions smaller than the wavelength of light.
These applications range from life sciences to microelectronics to advanced optics for security and defense, said Maschmann, who is also co-director of the MU Materials Science & Engineering Institute.
“This device is exciting for our research into new metamaterials for advanced optics developed by and for artificial intelligence,” said Professor Derek Anderson, principal investigator on the ERDC grant. “We have done a lot of computational and simulation work, and this device allows us to create prototypes to validate, compare and further develop our studies.”
For Leinauer, the printer is a game changer.
Leinauer’s research focuses on finding a precise approach that allows doctors to collect live cancer cells from a simple blood draw.
This is important because it opens up more personalized methods for determining the best treatment. Currently, oncologists recommend chemotherapy, radiation and other cancer treatments based on past success.
The ability to study a patient’s metastatic cancer cells instead would allow doctors to test and recommend the best treatment based on that patient’s specific needs.
“Currently, when you try to extract cancer cells, they get damaged or die during the process,” Leinauer said. “We use a manufacturing process called photolithography to develop a filter that can capture the cancer cells. This manufacturing process involves transferring micro/nanoscale geometric patterns from a photomask to a silicon wafer.”
The filter has a maze-like pattern that traps cancer cells, which are typically larger than most other cells. However, until now there has been no way to remove them from their filter without potential damage.
To alleviate this problem, Leinauer had the idea of developing a design that could change its shape to more easily release the trapped cancer cells without damaging them.
“The idea is that you use external loads to change the geometry of the channels, converting this maze-like pattern into something simplified that creates these fluid pathways so that trapped cells can easily exit the filter,” he said. “It is a complex design and manufacturing was a significant hurdle. This printer fixes that. It integrates photolithographic manufacturing methods with 3D printing of geometric designs at a speed and accuracy never before possible.”
Maschmann envisions using Quantum The printer can also create tiny geometric designs that would allow him and his collaborators to grow carbon nanotube films in specific patterns.
The Nanoscribe is a groundbreaking technology, says Leinauer.
The technology can also be applied to advanced heat transfer applications. “It can manipulate liquid droplets to improve two-phase heat transfer,” Maschmann said. “When small droplets come into contact, they give off a lot of surface energy, energy large enough to cause liquid to jump off a surface, which is great for heat transfer.”
Leinauer compared the technological advancement of the Quantum-X form to the direct transition from the 30-ton computers of the 1940s to the latest smartphone.
“Mizzou is already a world-class research institution, but that’s what sets us apart,” he said. “This is groundbreaking technology. It allows us to pursue novel ideas that were simply not feasible due to the limitations of traditional manufacturing processes such as photolithography. This printer completely transforms what can be manufactured with relative ease, freeing researchers from the limitations of yesterday’s manufacturing capabilities to accelerate innovation.”
The printer is located on the third floor of Lafferre Hall and is available to researchers across campus and external users. Contact Joseph Mathai at email@example.com to learn more.