Frequently Asked Questions
Can I visit your facilities and do some sample printing of my own?
Of course you can. We encourage anyone that wants to come and test the machine to visit with us to ensure one of the Microplotter systems will perform well for your projects or lab.
What is the ongoing cost to operate a Microplotter system?
The primary ongoing cost to operate one of these systems is dispenser replacement. Under routine usage, most of our customers are finding this replacement cost to be less than 4% of the purchase price of the system on an annual basis.
What types of materials can a Microplotter system print?
A Microplotter system is capable of printing a wide range of materials. These include
- nanometallic inks (silver, gold, copper)
- carbon nanotubes
- conductive and insulating polymer solutions
- biological solutions, such as those containing proteins, oligonucleotides, and genomic DNA
What's the difference between the GIX Microplotter Desktop and the GIX Microplotter II?
The two systems use the same dispensers, control software and control computer, but they differ in the precision of their positioning stages. The GIX Microplotter Desktop has a positioning resolution of 20 µm in X and Y, and 8 in Z. The GIX Microplotter II has more robust positioning stages that have a 5 µm resolution in X, Y, and Z, and which provide much smoother motion. We therefore recommend the use of the GIX Microplotter II for higher-precision applications, such as microelectronic prototyping.
What is the maximum viscosity you can print?
A Microplotter system can load and dispense materials with viscosities as high as 450 cP. Some materials with better wetting properties, but with higher viscosities (> 1200 cP) can also be loaded into the system.
Are there limitations on the materials that can be printed?
Any material compatible with systems based on standard inkjet technology can be dispensed with a Microplotter system.
Beyond that, the most significant limitations on materials that can be dispensed in a Microplotter system are viscosity, particle size, and the volatility of the solvent. As discussed elsewhere, viscosities up to 450 cP are supported in these systems. Particle sizes must be half of the inside diameter at the tip of the dispenser (which can range from 1-70 µm), although best performance is achieved with particles that are less than 5 µm in diameter. Finally, the solvents used must be no more volatile than toluene, or they will evaporate too quickly to be printed well. Solvents like acetone and chloroform will not work, but ones like water and chlorobenzene will.
What types of substrates can a Microplotter system print on?
The Microplotter systems can currently print on any planar surface, or any flexible material that can be laid flat. These systems have been used with substrate materials that include silicon, glass, quartz, stainless steel, and a wide range of polymers.
What are typical feature sizes?
Feature size will be a function of the aperture of the dispenser and how wettable your surface is by the solution you're printing. Feature widths will not be narrower than the dispenser aperture, and the degree of wetting of your surface will determine how far out from the dispenser tip the solution will spread.
While Microplotter systems have been used to print features as small as 5 µm wide, this typically requires some tuning of the inks and substrate involved. 20-30 µm feature widths are commonly achievable with most solutions.
What comes with your systems?
A Microplotter system is a turnkey package that includes the robotic positioning system, controlling electronics, an integrated CCD camera, and a control computer. The system requires no additional hardware or utilities connections, and is usable out of the box.
We include an Apple® iMac® as a control computer. This computer comes fully configured and ready to use, with all control software installed and set up properly for that system. Monitor, keyboard, and mouse are all included in this package.
We do not offer Windows or Linux versions of our control software, but the iMacs we ship with these systems are easy to install in existing Windows- or Linux-based environments. We would be glad to assist your IT department with the integration of our control computers in your facility.
How do we specify the patterns to be drawn by your systems?
We provide a CAD application that is built around the capabilities of the Microplotter systems, where you can easily draw out designs to be printed. This application lets you lay out even complex patterns, and we have made the source code available for download if you wish to extend it.
Additionally, 2-D designs saved in the standard AutoCAD® DXF file format can be imported and printed using our software.