Is this the smallest race car you’ve ever seen?
Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have a bit of a penchant for speed. And it’s not just the nanoscale 3D printed race car that gives it away… the team there have developed a mirror guided, laser equipped 3D printer that is officially faster than any that has come before.
…printing speed used to be measured in millimetres per second – our device can do five metres in one second.
Not only is it fast, it is also remarkably accurate. The printed structures are highly detailed, yet no bigger than a grain of sand. These results are achieved using a process called two-photon lithography – developed through the combined might of specialised molecular chemists working together with mechanical engineers.
You can see just how quick the nanoscale 3D printing really is in the following short video.
Conventional 3D printing techniques can only create new solid material on top of the previously printed layer. With two-photon lithography, solid material can be created anywhere within the liquid resin. This means that the working surface does not require any preparation before the next layer is produced, which is one of the aspects that makes the technique so fast.
It’s not the kind of thing we’re going to see in DIY printers any time soon, but some of the potential uses include printing structures for biomedical applications. Work has already begun on rapid production (the race car above was printed in just four minutes, after all) of custom biological parts that living cells can attach themselves to.