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Harnessing the potential of micro precision: how Electroformed micro nozzle plates empower applications across industries

Apr 24, 2023 4:20:19 PM By Hua Fan

The world of precision technology is constantly evolving, and one of the innovations that have gained significant attention in recent years is the development of micro-fabricated metal nozzle plates. These tiny, intricate components are revolutionizing industries across the board, with various applications in fields like Inkjet Printing, Medical, and Flow Control. In this article, we'll explore the key features of these nozzle plates, their applications, and how they empower important industry applications. We'll also delve into why Electroforming technology is particularly suitable for the production of such precision metal plates.

Micro-fabricated metal nozzle plates are characterized by their extremely small size, intricate features, and complex design. Such metal plates found applications in numerous industries, with some of the most common applications including inkjet nozzle plates, nebulizer plates, and flow control plates.

Micro nozzle plates in inkjet printing: the critical part for high-quality printing (and more)

In inkjet printers, micro nozzle plates serve as an integral component of the print head, working seamlessly with other elements to regulate the ink flow. As the single most critical component of an inkjet print head, the quality of these nozzle plates directly influences the overall printing performance of the system. Micro-fabricated inkjet nozzle plates play a pivotal role in depositing ink onto the printing substrate by precisely controlling droplet size, shape, and velocity. This meticulous control is crucial for maintaining exceptional print quality, characterized by vibrant colors and sharp resolution.

The development of new materials and contactless printing applications have opened up new possibilities for inkjet printing in various industries, making inkjet nozzle plates even more crucial to the performance of these systems. Inkjet printing can now be used to deposit a wide range of functional materials onto various surfaces, including conductive inks for flexible electronics, living cells for tissue engineering, and silver paste for solar cells, and the role of inkjet nozzle plates becomes increasingly important across industries.
(learn more about applications from textile printing to solar cell printing enabled by the inkjet printing revolution and Electroforming technology)

Micro nozzle plates for drug delivery: the key part for precise aerosol control 

In the medical industry, micro nozzle plates can be used to control the release of drugs in targeted delivery systems, improving medical outcomes. In a mesh nebulizer, the nebulizer plate is located within the medication chamber, where it plays a key role in converting liquid medication into an inhalable aerosol. Mesh nebulizers work by employing a vibrating mesh plate with numerous tiny holes. As the liquid medication passes through these holes, the plate vibrates at a high frequency, transforming the liquid into a fine mist to be inhaled by the patient. 

It is the micro-fabricated nozzle plate/mesh plate that ensures the medication is broken down into uniformly sized droplets, facilitating more effective delivery to the lungs and enabling better absorption of the medication. Moreover, the way the micro-fabricated nebulizer plate efficiently converts liquid medication into fine mist helps reduce medication waste, ensuring that the patient receives the correct dosage.

Micro nozzle plates for flow control: the essential part for ultimate flow control

In flow control applications where precise control over fluid or gas flow is crucial, micro nozzle plates play a significant role. These tiny plates consist of an array of micro-sized nozzles or intricate features, engineered to accurately manage the flow rate, pressure, and direction of fluids or gases in a wide range of industries, such as aerospace, automotive, medical devices, and chemical processing. They regulate the passage of fluid or gas through carefully designed microscopic openings, size, and shape, which can be tailored to meet the specific requirements of a given application. By adjusting these parameters, it is possible to achieve precise control over fluid dynamics, such as laminar or turbulent flow, and maintain consistent flow rates and pressures.

The importance of the micro nozzle plates in the performance of flow control applications lies in their capability to enhance precision by providing exceptional control, which is vital for applications where minor variations in flow can significantly affect system performance or product quality. Moreover, by accurately controlling the flow of fluids or gases, micro nozzle plates contribute to increased efficiency in various processes, leading to reduced energy consumption, minimized waste, and lower operational costs. 

Electroforming technology: the hero behind the scene
Several production technologies can be used to manufacture micro-fabricated metal nozzle plates, such as Laser Cutting, 3D Printing, Micro Milling, and Electroforming. Electroforming is a particularly suitable manufacturing process for fabrication of the micro-precision nozzle plates due to its unique capabilities in creating highly precise, complex, and intricate structures. See below some key features that make Electroforming the winning option.
  • High precision: Electroforming allows for the creation of extremely precise components with tight tolerances down to +- 1 micron. This level of accuracy is essential for micro-precision nozzle plates, as even minor variations in size or shape can impact their performance and overall functionality.
  • Complex geometries: Electroforming can produce components with complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using other manufacturing methods. This capability is vital for micro-precision nozzle plates, which often require intricate structures and complex design features to ensure optimal performance.
  • Burr-free and Stress-free: Electroforming is an Additive Manufacturing process that grows metal atom by atom, resulting in burr-free and stress-free components. This is especially important for micro-precision nozzle plates, as burrs or residual stresses could negatively affect the performance of the nozzle and the overall system.
  • Scalable Production: Electroforming is a scalable manufacturing process that can be used for fast prototyping to high-volume production. This makes it an ideal choice for manufacturing micro-precision nozzle plates, not to mention the excellent reproducibility of Electroforming technology. 
  • 100% Quality: At Veco, our high-precision micro nozzle plates are measured by fully-automated measurement systems. Together with our inspection team, we can guarantee 100% inspection with zero defects.

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