Microscale 3D printer

Gundamamama German start-up Nanoscribe is commercialized a 3D "micro printer" that uses a near-infrared laser to print tiny structures with features as small as 30 nanometers. (A human hair is roughly 50,000 - 100,000 nanometers wide.) The device uses an infra-red laser beam moving in three dimensions to solidify a light-sensitive material into the desired shape. The additive manufacturing system, much faster than existing technology, could be used to "print" the components of medical devices, electromechanical systems, and, er, robot models that would fit on the head of a pin. "Micro 3-D Printer Creates Tiny Structures in Seconds" (Technology Review, thanks Anthony Townsend!)


  1. yawn. Sick of hearing about 3D printing. IMHO the fruits of this much heralded revolution in maker-dom is nothing more than hi-tech knick knack.

    1.  Speaking as a skeptic of 3D printing generally, I’m still favorably impressed by this particular implementation. Working on this scale allows for a whole world of neat effects, and it’s comparatively fast.

  2. Not going to get 30nm resolution from near infrared (700 nm). Maybe 30 µm was meant?

    1. My first thought as well, but check the scale bar in that image; the features are definitely submicron. Based on one of the company’s datasheets ( http://www.nanoscribe.de/data/Ressources/493_1-Data_Sheet_DiLL.pdf ), maybe they’re taking advantage of the laser’s intensity spread and have a substrate that only responds to the intensity at the very center? Or the rapid laser pulses mean they can work with photons as particles rather than waves?

      1. Agreed, sub-micron, but ~700nm is also sub-micron. I’m guessing that their feature size is slightly larger than the wavelength of the laser, i.e., close to diffraction limited.

    2. The smallest reported spot (point-spread function) for the sort of laser they use is about 30nm, but to get that you have to play tricks with the material you excite (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STED_microscopy). But its unclear to me if they can do anything like this.

      1. You can get beyond diffraction limits with things like multiple patterning: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_patterning

    3. It’s a two-photon polymerization process. The laser can only cure the resin (normally a UV process) near the very center of the beam. Hence the resolution boost.

  3. Nanites, here they come! (Just need to get the self-replicating part down, which I’m sure is just a minor wrinkle :) ).

  4. We’re down to the point where the feature size can be easily described in terms of the number of atoms, too. Those 30nm features are only a couple hundred atoms wide.

  5. German start-up Nanoscribe is commercialized a 3D “micro printer”

    Nanoscribe has commercialized, or is commercializing, make up your mind..

  6. Am I the only one who saw this and immediately thought ‘Drexel nanofingers’?

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