A breakthrough at the Vienna University of Technology has slashed the time it takes to print 3-D nanostructures. Using a process called two-photon lithography, the team printed a 300-micrometer long model of a Formula 1 race car in four minutes.
The basic technology isn't new, Professor Jurgen Stampfl told the BBC, but the barrier has until now been the speed of deposition. Because it's such a precise process, other printers have built up nanoscale objects at a rate of millimeters per second. The team in Vienna demonstrated it could print at a rate of five meters per second.
"Using our set-up and materials," he said, the university will be able to speed up the printing process by "a factor of 500 or in some cases 1,000 times." For a project that would normally take days to print, this could be a game-changer.
The video below shows the race car mode is made from 100 layers of resin, each consisting of approximately 200 individual lines. It took four minutes to print.
The breakthrough holds promise for advancing biomedical applications that would create nanoscale structures for biomedical applications or for other industries that want to develop very tiny components.
The Vienna team used a special type of resin for its new process. If they can make these resins safe for medical use, researchers may be able to more quickly print tiny scaffolds on which cells could grow new tissue for organs or bones.
Editor's note: The first paragraph of this story initially contained this sentence: "Using a process called two-photon lithography, the team printed a nanoscale model of a 300-micrometer long Formula 1 race car in four minutes." This sentence has since been edited for clarity. The object printed is measured in micrometers (285 to be exact). The width of the polymer that is deposited is measured in nanometers.