Scientists Build 3D Printer for Tiny Nano-Models

Using a method called two-photon lithography, the printer at the Vienna University of Technology was able to print a 285 µm race car as well as a 75 µm model of the St. Stephen's cathedral in Vienna.

In contrast to usual 3D printers, the device uses a liquid resin as well as a laser to harden the material when targeted by the laser light. The system supports up to 100 layers that consist of about addressable 200 lines each. “Until now, this technique used to be quite slow”, said Juergen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at the university. “The printing speed used to be measured in millimeters per second – our device can do five meters in one second.”

100 layers of the material can be covered in about four minutes, the researcher said.

The increase in printing speed means that the technology can now be applied to larger and more complex objects. The scientists said they are now developing bio-compatible resins for medical applications, which can be used to "create scaffolds to which living cells can attach themselves" in a process that would result in a biological tissue. The 3D printer could also be used in nano-technology, the researchers said.

Douglas Perry is an author and journalist from Portland, Oregon. His many articles have appeared in the likes of Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, The Oregonian, and several newspapers. He has covered topics including security, hardware, and cars, and has written five books. In his spare time, he enjoys watching The Sopranos.