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  1. Abstract Digital maskless lithography is gaining popularity due to its unique ability to quickly fabricate high-resolution parts without the use of physical masks. By implementing controlled grayscaling and exposure control, it has the potential to replace conventional lithography altogether. However, despite the existence of a theoretical foundation for photopolymerization, observing the voxel growth process in situ is a significant challenge. This difficulty can be attributed to several factors, including the microscopic size of the parts, the low refractive index difference between cured and uncured resin, and the rapid rate of photopolymerization once it crosses a certain threshold. As such, there is a pressing need for a system that can address these issues. To tackle these challenges, the paper proposes a modified Schlieren-based observation system that utilizes confocal magnifying optics to create a virtual screen at the camera's focal plane. This system allows for the visualization of the minute changes in refractive indices made visible by the use of Schlieren optics, specifically the deflection of light by the changing density-induced refractive index gradient. The use of focusing optics provides the system with the flexibility needed to position the virtual screen and implement optical magnification. The researchers employed single-shot binary images withmore »different pixel numbers to fabricate voxels and examine the various factors affecting voxel shape, including chemical composition and energy input. The observed results were then compared against simulations based on Beer–Lambert's law, photopolymerization curve, and Gaussian beam propagation theory. The physical experimental results validated the effectiveness of the proposed observation system. The paper also briefly discusses the application of this system in fabricating microlenses and its advantages over theoretical model-based profile predictions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023