Interview with Jan Pal-Goetzen: 3D printed microTEC

Jan Pal-Goetzen is the Founder and CEO of 3D printed microTEC ,Bethesda Maryland. The company takes 3D printing beyond rapid prototyping. While pushing the resolution limits down to 1μm lateral, the unique batch approach allows mass volume production on a single 3D printer. The solutions are always innovative and often groundbreaking in the field. Jan has been in the field of 3D-printed microfluidics and the packaging of microelectronics for over 10 years. He holds a PhD in Physics from Marburg University Germany. He was an invited speaker at our last 3D-printed microfluidics event in 2022.

When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like?

Jan: I got inspired to work for microTEC while in high school. In the late 1990s microTEC was generating a lot of buzz in the local and national news by creating eye-catching miniature versions of familiar things. This included a 2mm Eifel tower, and a Christmas tree that was about 1mm in height and featured details like candles and decoration. The next demonstrator was inspired by the Sci-Fi Adventure “Fantastic Voyage” where a micro submarine ventures into the body of a scientist. microTEC created a demonstrator version with a working propeller on a 10µm axis that would deliver drugs inside the human body. 

What inspired you to start your journey in microfluidics and 3D printing?

Jan: After my Ph.D. in physics, I decided to move from academia to industry. I had always kept an eye on the 3D printing sector which had evolved a lot in the meantime. I then got an opportunity to continue working for microTEC in a leading position. We founded 3D printed microTEC in San Francisco in 2017 to extend the US footprint of microTEC especially in microfluidics market.

What motivates you the most for your work? 

Jan: Seeing our products in applications that impact peoples’ lives. For instance, 3D printed devices that make drug development more affordable as well as microfluidic devices that allow highly efficient killer T-cell manufacturing for immunotherapy. 

What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions? 

Jan: Availability of material parameters. The variety of available material properties has evolved a lot which makes life easier. But a lot of the time it’s still trial and error to find the right match for the product. 

What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Jan: Until recently most engineers were not too well educated on the benefits of 3D printing and therefore wouldn’t make use of them when designing new devices. Acceptance of 3D printed materials beyond prototyping. Establish standards for materials.

If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Jan: Availability of true conducting and semi-conducting UV curable materials for high-resolution 3D printing. Improve printing resolution by an order of magnitude to drive up yield in current products.

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