3D printer promises super-fast nanoscale implantables

3D printing has been tipped as the next frontier of piracy, but it could also be the next frontier of high-speed nanoscale construction if research at the Vienna University of Technology pans out. A team there has produced a 285 micrometer long 3D printed F1 car model using a system called "two-photo lithography", hardening liquid resin using a precisely focused laser. The scale, although impressive, isn't the real advance however, it's the speed at which the model was created: just four minutes, orders of magnitude faster than previous printers.

To put it into context, the Vienna team's printer can create hardened resin layers at a rate of five meters per second. In comparison, earlier 3D nanoscale printers could print at rates measured in millimeters per second. That allows for multiple layers – 100 in the case of the F1 model – to be stacked incredibly quickly, though still with accuracy: the variance from the original CAD file is just ±1µm.

What makes the system so fast is the combination of more precisely controlled mirrors to focus the lasers along with a new type of resin. The latter only hardens when two laser beams combine, and even then only at the very center of the beam, meaning solids can be created "anywhere within the liquid resin rather than on top of the previously created layer only."

Tiny race cars are impressive but not especially useful, but the Vienna researchers have medical advancements in mind. They're experimenting with bio-compatible resins, which would allow tiny "scaffolds to which living cells can attach themselves" to be printed, eventually interwoven into the fabric of the body.

[via 3D Printing News]