3-D printer with nano-precision sets world record

Summary:Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have developed a method for fabricating intricately structured sculptures as tiny as a grain of sand in record speed.

A 285 µm racecar, printed at the Vienna University of Technology
Using a technique known as two-photon lithography, Austrian researchers have developed a high-precision 3-D printer capable of producing nanometer-sized objects in the shape of race cars, cathedrals and bridges -- all in a matter of minutes.

The high-precision 3-D printer at TU Vienna is purportedly orders of magnitude faster than similar devices and opens up new areas of applications, such as in medicine.

The super-fast nano-printer uses a liquid resin, which is hardened at precisely the correct spots by a focused laser beam. The focal point of the laser beam is guided through the resin by movable mirrors; it leaves behind a hardened line of solid polymer just a few hundred nanometers wide. The result is a detailed sculpture measuring a couple hundred micrometers in length.

"Until now, this technique used to be quite slow," said Professor Jürgen Stampfl from the Institute of Materials Science and Technology at the TU Vienna. “The printing speed used to be measured in millimeters per second --– our device can do five meters in one second.” In two-photon lithography, this is a world record.

The scientists at TU Vienna are now developing bio-compatible resins for medical applications that can be used to create scaffolds to which living cells can attach themselves for the systematic creation of biological tissues. The 3-D printer could also be used to create tailor-made components for biomedical technology or nanotechnology.

The video below shows the 3-D printing process in real time. The very fast control mechanism connected to the laser beam produces 100 layers, consisting of approximately 200 single lines each, in four minutes.

Source: Vienna University of Technology

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Topics: Hardware, Printers

About

Christopher Jablonski is a freelance technology writer. Previously, he held research analyst positions in the IT industry and was the manager of marketing editorial at CBS Interactive. He's been contributing to ZDNet since 2003. Christopher received a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at U... Full Bio

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