How long does it take to cook up a 3D print of a microscopic racecar? Not long at all apparently. A laser beam, some liquid resin and 4 minutes later you have a super tiny, super precise 3D print. It’s a new -printing technology using “two-photon lithography” in conjunction with new, highly-efficient photoinitiators which make the fast writing speeds possible. It’s developed by Jan Torgersen and Peter Gruberand under the guidance of professor Jürgen Stampfl at the Vienna University of Technology. The method is highly accurate and literally setting the mirrors in motion to speed the printing of larger scale objects.
Nano-printing 3D objects
First there was Klaus Stadlmann and the world’s smallest 3D Printer with a build platform measuring 20×30 mm. Also developed at the Vienna University of Technology in the research group of professor Jürgen Stampfl, this printer could create sculptures smaller than a human hair and was based on similar technology using LEDs. This new printer increases the speed of build, layering the resin at speeds of 5m per second.
The 3D 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 and leaves behind a polymerized line of solid polymer, just a few hundred nanometers wide. This high resolution enables the creation of intricately structured sculptures as tiny as a grain of sand. “Until now, this technique used to be quite slow”, says 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.
It’s not the clearest illustration, but the video below demonstrates the printer’s speed, building a race car with dimensions of 330x130x100µm3. It has 100 layers with 200 polymer lines each. All of that within 4 minutes.