Paving the way for real-world nanotechnology products

September 30th, 2013
Adhesives that leave no sticky residue, 'skins' that keep medical instruments germ-free, new anti-reflective protectors for displays or surfaces that prevent barnacles from attaching to ships.These are just some of the products that nanoimprinting technology is capable of producing. A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE) and its partners launched a new Nanoimprint Foundry that will develop, test-bed and prototype specially engineered plastics and surfaces for the specific purpose of commercialising the technologies. Possible applications of nanoimprint technology include dry adhesives, aesthetic packaging, contact lenses, biomedical cell scaffolds, anti-frost surfaces and anti-bacteria materials.

2. The multi-party investment will bring together national research organisations, suppliers and manufacturers spanning the nanotechnology value chain, and government agencies to promote the technology. The Foundry is part of a masterplan spearheaded by A*STAR to push translational research and accelerate commercialisation of home-grown technologies. In partnership with other A*STAR research institutes, IMRE will work with companies like Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, EV Group, NTT Advanced Technology Corporation, NIL Technology ApS, Kyodo International Inc., micro resist technology GmbH, Nanoveu Pte Ltd and Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd to produce prototypes for real-world products and applications. The Foundry and its partners will also work closely with Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) and SPRING to promote its nanoimprint applications to industry as part of the plans to build up Singapore's high-value manufacturing capabilities.

3. "We can help companies develop up to 20,000 samples for proof-of-concept and pilot production allowing manufacturers to shorten the product cycle but minus the heavy capital R&D investment", said Dr Karen Chong, the IMRE scientist who is heading the Foundry. Dr Chong added that the Foundry will be a one-stop shop for companies seeking to conceive, design and develop solutions for new, revolutionary products based on the versatile nanoimprint technology.

4. "The Foundry gives us the tools for creating real products that target industry end users and ultimately consumers", explained Mr Masayuki Yagi, Director & General Manager, Advanced Machinery Business Unit, Toshiba Machines Co Ltd, Japan on why the company chose to participate in the initiative. "Toshiba Machines and the Foundry will aim to deliver innovative engineering solutions based on nanoimprint and be the best partner for leading industries".

5. According to Mr Koh Teng Kwee, Director of Solves Innovative Technology Pte Ltd, "Working with IMRE since ICON 1[1], I am sure IMRE's nanoimprint technology and know-how is now ready for industrial adoption. In my opinion, IMRE is able to provide everything needed for a new product realisation involving nanoimprinting."

6. "There is a billion-dollar, virtually untapped market for new advanced nanotechnology products that can make use of what the Foundry has to offer", said Prof Andy Hor, Executive Director for IMRE, adding that the initiative will hasten the industrialisation of nanoimprinting in this lucrative market segment. In consumer care for example, the global market for contact lenses - where nanoimprint technology can be used to produce new functionalities like multi-coloured lenses - is expected to grow to USD 11.7 billion by 2015[2].

7. "The Foundry is the first one-stop shop to pull different value chain partners together to offer solutions based on nanoimprint through equipment, moulds, materials and applications to end user companies", said Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director of A*STAR's Science and Engineering Research Council which oversees a number of the research institutes dedicated to the physical sciences and engineering. "The new Foundry is part of Singapore's strategy to create a new, advanced high-value manufacturing sector to support its growing knowledge-based economy."

8. "As part of EDB's vision to position Singapore as an Advanced Manufacturing Hub, we will continue to work with companies to co-create and adopt advanced manufacturing technologies. We see this new Research Foundry as one of the key infrastructures to strengthen nanoscale-manufacturing capabilities in Singapore", said Mr Yi-Hsen Gian, Director (i3), Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore.

9. The Foundry was launched on 30 September 2013 during a ceremony that also saw collaboration agreements signed between A*STAR and its industry partners.

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