Photopolymer Investigation to Accelerate Advanced Manufacturing of Biomimetic Functional Microstructures

Location: Sydney, NSW

Duration: 5 months

This research internship is funded in partnership with the Innovative Manufacturing CRC

Project Background

MicroTau has developed a novel advanced manufacturing technology called direct contactless microfabrication (DCM) technology to economically print functional microstructures such as drag-reducing shark skin microstructures as well as further designs under development with properties including adaptive camouflage, marine anti-fouling, optical and anti-bacterial properties. This technology is being developed for defence customers including the Australian Army and US Air Force as well as civilian applications.
The DCM technology involves the selective irradiation of a UV-curable coating (i.e. radical initiated photopolymer) with a micro-scale irradiance pattern that corresponds to the desired functional microstructure design. MicroTau has fabricated shark skin microstructures that reliably demonstrate a 7% skin friction drag reduction in wind tunnel testing by Lockheed Martin and is now scaling up the DCM technology for manufacturing and integration in other industries such as wood furniture manufacturing and maritime applications.
We have found that certain UV-curable photopolymer coatings have unique properties that could eliminate a step in the DCM process and substantially reduce time and cost. Determining what characteristics of a photopolymer enable this could drastically accelerate application of this technology in multiple industries and integration into the manufacturing of multiple products.

Research to be Conducted

The research to be conducted includes formulating and testing different photopolymer / UV-curable coating formulations to determine what components or characteristics enable a material to produce these unique qualities when used with the DCM process. The researcher will be working with end users of the DCM process to improve outcomes on a range of projects including aerospace, defence and wood manufacturing.
We wish to investigate certain behaviours observed during the DCM process to see whether these can be enhanced or avoided. These may be a simple as minimum features size, improving resilience of the final cured polymer, changing the surface behaviour (e.g. hydrophobicity) and tuning photoinitiator concentration. We are also interested in enhancing solvent-free printing of microstructures, whereby printed structures can be produced without removal of uncured resin.
The project may also involve understanding solubility of photopolymers in difference solvents or developing agents. The researcher would work to help design an automated system for removing uncured coating using either solvents or physical methods, or a combination of the two.

Skills Required

If you’re a PhD student and meet some or all the below we want to hear from you. We strongly encourage women, indigenous and disadvantaged candidates to apply:

  • Chemical wet experience and skills
  • Photopolymer experience or training, if not polymer chemistry
  • Experience with photolithography, DLP or SLA 3D resin printing

Expected Outcomes

Identify core components or characteristics that allow a photopolymer to produce the desired properties.
Design protocol for formulating new photopolymers or reformulating existing photopolymers to produce these properties.
Stretch goal: develop improved developing processes to remove uncured photopolymer or UV curable coating material.

Additional Details

The intern will receive $3,000 per month of the internship, usually in the form of stipend payments.

It is expected that the intern will primarily undertake this research project during regular business hours, spending at least 80% of their time on-site with the industry partner.  The intern will be expected to maintain contact with their academic mentor throughout the internship either through face-to-face or phone meetings as appropriate.

The intern and their academic mentor will have the opportunity to negotiate the project’s scope, milestones and timeline during the project planning stage.

Applications Close

20 November 2019


APR – 1245