Over the next 10 to 20 years, projections anticipate that micro- and nano-technologies will change almost every product on the market today and result in an estimated $2.6 trillion global market. Miniature and micro-manufacturing technology will play crucial roles in making this happen through making these products with volume production.
At the same time, over the last decade, the manufacture of miniature and micro-components and the miniaturization of manufacturing equipment/devices has gained notable development globally, which deals with the manufacturing at miniature (< 50.0 mm), micro (<1.0 mm) and sub-micro (0.1 to 1.0 mm) scales.
However, the production of miniature and micro-components by traditional fabrication techniques for micro-electronics as well as by machining and forming is not always adequate since only a very limited range of materials can be processed.
On the other hand manufacturing methods such as conventional sintering and metal-powder injection molding would need longer process chains and/or less balanced cost to performance ratios.
There are still significant challenges to the manufacture of miniature and micro-components to meet the requirements for multi-materials and multi-functionalities while maintaining low manufacturing-cost, which hinders the introduction of new tools, new components and products into the market.
Micro-components for aggressive environments, micro-components with biocompatible functions, optical properties, tribo-chemical functions and excellent electrical conductivity, excellent tribological and barrier functions and magnetic properties, etc, are just some of the targeting applications.
Although the progress in miniaturization of product and systems will continue in the near future, this progress in Europe will depend largely on the availability of cost-effective and high-quality manufacturing methods for the volume production of multi-materials, high-performance miniature and micro-parts, in order to compete globally.