NeXuS is a system developed for automated flexible multiscale manufacturing of devices integrating Micro/Nano-Opto-Electro-Mechanical-Systems (MOEMS/NEMS). It is currently an on-going project at LARRI funded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program, through MRI Project: Development of NeXuS: Multiscale Additive Manufacturing Instrument with integrated 3D Printing and Robotic Assembly. The current grant is $2.1M (extramural $1.5M) for 2018-2021.
The NeXuS system combines precision robotic assembly with additive manufacturing for fabrication and multiscale integration of miniature devices and systems. Devices include wearable MEMS sensor fabrics, microrobots for wafer scale micro-factory systems, tactile robot skins, innovative energy storage options, nanostructured plasmonic devices and biosensors. The NeXuS system possesses the flexibility to fixture, position, transport and assemble components on a 100nm to 1m scale, is capable of unparalleled additive processes such as 3D printing through aerosol jetting, ultrasonic bonding and printing, thin film photonic sintering, fiber loom weaving, in-situ MEMS packaging and interconnect formation. The NeXuS will contribute novel hardware and software for rapid prototyping of emerging microsystems, microrobots, wearable sensors, and multi-material nanoscale systems. This project paves the way for the physical realization of future advanced technology prototypes, such as hand-held micro factories for micro and nano technology, the next generation soft robots, and higher performance solar energy conversion systems.
To make NeXuS a reality, multiple disciplines have come together on the LARRI team including faculty from U of L’s ECE and ME departments, including Dan Popa, Kevin Walsh, Cindy Harnett, Keng Hsu and Thad Druffel. The diverse expertise between twenty students and staff project team members is responsible for the design and assembly of the NeXuS system. Components and subsystems coordination, system development, safety solutions, electrical installation, aerosol ink-jet process development and custom pick and pack system development among a plethora of other responsibilities are conducted by our Postdoctoral Research Associates, MS, PhD, and undergraduate students. Dr. Dan Popa’s (PI), whose research background is in automation, precision robotics, and micro-robotics, works alongside four Co PIs with research backgrounds in perovskite solar cells, nanostructured thin films, wearable and textile-based devices, 3D metal printing, soft sensors multiscale MEMS devices integration and additive manufacturing.
NeXuS system includes the following components and subsystems:
The NeXuS will be operational at the end of 2021, and is expected to join the service tools at the Micro Nano Technology Center (MNTC, cleanroom) and be accessible to any researcher in the United States as a prototyping instrument for wearable devices and sensors and microrobots.