Overview of Micro Manufacturing
Product miniaturization has opened up a whole new vista of possibilities in the manufacturing industry. Once narrowly defined as simply the development of new products, innovation is now understood to apply to all aspects of the process responsible for the fabrication of a product. Micro manufacturing, in particular, can be perceived as an innovative off-shoot of the age-old art of manufacturing. Though no formal definition exists, micro manufacturing refers to the set of processes for the creation of structures, devices or systems having dimensions of the order of few microns. Most of the technologies that have been utilized in micro manufacturing, with the notable exception of X-ray micromachining (LIGA), are existing technologies downscaled to produce micro features. At this point in the development of technology, efficient micro systems have the potential to be the economic drivers of the foreseeable future. Further, micro manufacturing is an enabling technology for expediting developments in nano science – it bridges the gap between nano and macro worlds.
With the shrinking size of devices and components, the ability to manufacture precise and robust micro tools becomes increasingly important. While physical downsizing of an existing technique is a widely pursued subject of research, it is time we look upstream and downstream to expedite more applications for techniques that have been traditionally utilized for purposes other than manufacturing. Numerous challenges exist in this evolving arena of manufacturing.