The University of Manchester has been heavily involved in the inkjet printing field with projects ranging from conductive tracks to tissue engineering. Inkjet printing spans a diverse range of knowledge bases leading to many collaborative projects both within and outside the University of Manchester. Professor Brian Derby and Professor Stephen Yeates secured EPSRC funding to enhance the printer equipment portfolio and form a centre offering expertise through research, proof of concept to demonstrating industrial scale up.
The Digital Fabrication centre gives the community access to a range of state of the art printers able to work on diverse applications over Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1-5 with selected capability at TRL 6. Due to the similar issues and hurdles concerning ink development, drop-substrate interaction and feature resolution that have common physical origins the range of equipment in the centre has been selected to allow work in all areas of digital printing including:
- Materials deposition - Understanding how inkjet printed drops behave on a range of solid and porous surfaces (including paper and textiles). Drop shape is strongly influenced by the properties of the interfaces present and also by the proximity of neighboring drops. The evolution of the drop shape depends on dynamic forces, surface forces and drying or solidification kinetics, each with its own associated time constants. We are combining experimental and modeling approaches to study the phenomena and using high speed imaging to characterize the time evolution of drops.
- Bioprinting – The availability of a controlled and well defined scaffold structures is key to the advancement of tissue engineering, cell based microreactors and biosensors. Understanding the intricacies of cell and material deposition to generate scaffolds, hybrid cell scaffolds and patterned scaffold free structures is the focus of the bioprinting team. Both cells and proteins are characterised for damage and deposition routes.
- Textiles - The latest AVA CAD Design Print systems coupled to Mimaki printers. This powerful technology combination linked to the wider world class weaving, knitting and colouration facilities in Textiles and Paper allows the textile technology platform to be manufactured and effectively interfaced with innovative print design.
- 3D Printing (e.g. tomography spider) – Several printers can be utilised to generate 3D prototype models based on computer images. X-Ray tomography to probe defects in printed structures