Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMSUltra-high-resolution monolithic thermal bubble inkjet print head
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A monolithic inkjet print head, fabricated with silicon micromachining technology and capable of generating microscale liquid droplets, is developed and shown to function successfully. The print head uses a dense array of thermal bubble inkjet devices, made on a single silicon wafer. Each device is made of a Pt heater stack, a small, shallow fluid chamber, and a refilling channel formed by a Ge-sacrificial etching process, a deep-etched through-wafer feeding hole, and a micron-scale nozzle opened in a thin nitride membrane by plasma etching. Experimental results with a high resolution video imaging system show that this print head is capable of generating water droplets as small as 3 µm in diameter (0.014 pL), about 1/70th the volume of the droplets produced by existing inkjet systems. The printing process is also found to be stable, uniform in droplet size and velocity, and free of satellite droplets at optimum operation conditions. At small distances between the print head and substrate, droplet spreading is also small. This print head is then a capable tool for ultra-high-resolution inkjet printing and can be used in research areas where delivery of micron-scale fluid droplets is desired.