There are 3 basic options for the master structure used to create the embossing tooling:
- An existing microstructured device or structure, such as microfabricated silicon or glass or patterned photoresist, including SU8
- A microstructured device or structure that we have made for your project
- A macro-machined master made in-house at our facility
The use of a microstructured master gives the benefit of smooth optical finish surfaces and precise microscale dimensions that will be reproduced in the embossed plastic parts. Additionally, through holes and other macro features can be added in during the tooling or post-processing phases.
Other features and advantages of soft embossing technology include:
- High-fidelity reproduction of all features from macroscale to sub-micron dimensions
- Fast master fabrication (as short as 1 day for macromachined masters) yields the ability for rapid prototyping, without sacrificing quality or reproducibility of parts
- No need for ejector pins or draft angles
- Testing during prototyping phase can be done in the plastic of choice, rather than limited choices from other fabrication methods
- Choice of embossed plastic (as broad as for injection molding) allows selection of key properties such as fluorescence, optical clarity, and solvent compatibility
- Soft embossing tooling is much less expensive than an injection mold. Each soft tool can typically produce several hundred or thousand parts, and new tools can be cast from the master as needed in less than a day.