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Micro machines
March 12, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

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 hardened line of solid polymer, just a few hundred nanometers wide. This fine 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. Article and video.
posted by curious nu (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Extraordinarily relevant.
posted by hincandenza at 2:21 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


And since the Earth has an infinite source of "polymer resin" (usually called "oil"), we are completely set for...forever!
posted by DU at 2:25 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm confused. If "our device can do five meters in one second" and they are working at the micrometer scale, how long is it taking to do this entire build?
posted by smackfu at 2:26 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the printing speed for creating a straight line is given, i.e. theoretical maximum and easy to compare for different machines. Practically attainable speed will probably be limited by the positioning mechanism and difficulty of the pattern.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:35 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand WHY we need tiny 3D printed race cars, but I know it's awesome!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 2:44 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


The hobby miniatures crowd are eagerly awaiting a desk-top version and would like to subscribe to your newsletters.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:49 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


how long is it taking to do this entire build?

According to the video and its description, it took 4 minutes 6 seconds to do the 330x130x100µm car.
posted by aubilenon at 2:50 PM on March 12, 2012


Faster little dust mite.

Faster.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:58 PM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm glad they made a race car. These demos always seem to go down the avenue of making like circuit boards or building schematics or something boring, whereas you KNOW as soon as anyone gets a 3D printer they're making a six-meter T-rex in a tugboat.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:00 PM on March 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


The hobby miniatures crowd...

I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.
posted by ODiV at 3:04 PM on March 12, 2012


Why do they always miss the opportunity to draw a rudimentary penis.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.

This isn't a Pedro Kantor of the Crimson Fists, its my own creation... Pedro KantBeIgnored of the Maroon Hands!
posted by Slackermagee at 3:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.

I'm not kidding...every single time I read about an advancement in 3D printing, I get a little excited because I know I'm one step closer to finally having a Max Ernst Chess Set.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:17 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


What good is this without the teeny tiny Hot Wheels track to go with it?
posted by MegoSteve at 3:22 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Why do they always miss the opportunity to draw a rudimentary penis."

Pah! Why bother with rudimentary?! Make a 3-D plastic model of the real thing!

And to answer that question, it's because their 3-D printer is busy making the parts for the necessary 3-D scanner.

(Well, that, and that they're having trouble holding it still…)
posted by Pinback at 3:24 PM on March 12, 2012


Why bother with rudimentary?! Make a 3-D plastic model of the real thing!

You say this as if they're two different things.

*sniff*
posted by R. Schlock at 3:46 PM on March 12, 2012


I wonder how long before we can inject similar (but medically safe) compound into a human being, and use a maser or other variation of focused energy to construct microscopic repairs in situ.
posted by Xoebe at 4:23 PM on March 12, 2012


NANO DEATH RACE!

It takes place inside the bodies of the drivers of the regular speed death race.
posted by fuq at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is how I am eventually going to get my Daft Punk helmet.
posted by 4ster at 4:40 PM on March 12, 2012


Getting this level of precision at this scale and speed is completely awesome. The idea of being able to rapid prototype at the micrometer level is going to open the door to all kinds of crazy stuff.

I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.

Well, they're worried about it, anyway; we've had to take down several models to comply with the DMCA. I'm guessing their not going to feel any nips at their margins until people start creating their own truly original shapes, stories, etc. Which of course was always the exciting part to begin with!
posted by phooky at 5:05 PM on March 12, 2012


According to the video and its description, it took 4 minutes 6 seconds to do the 330x130x100µm car.

At that rate it would take about 2 years to build up a 1 cubic centimeter object.
posted by jedicus at 5:28 PM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.

Affecting or supplementing - FigurePrints is using advancing technology and scale to make it progressively easier and cheaper to get a statuette of your WoW character, or now your XBox Live avatar. And BrickArms has existed alongside official Lego merchandise for a good while now... there's probably a combination of physical rights management and increased complexity or bonus content which needs to be discovered, but the first steps are being taken...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:47 PM on March 12, 2012


I wonder how long until 3D printing starts affecting the bottom line of Games Workshop and company.

Not GW, but I recall people selling knock-off Napoleonic miniatures in the eighties. Surely it'll be a while before 3d printing is cheaper than some latex and 60/40 solder?
posted by pompomtom at 7:51 PM on March 12, 2012


What inputs do 3d printers require at this point? Is there a universal standard - autocad?(i am really clueless) Architecture and real-time design of models will be (it seems) enormous. also, how does someone invest, equity-wise, in this technology -- is there a cisco of 3d printing i can purchase?
posted by Shit Parade at 8:20 PM on March 12, 2012


Hello, diamond age.
posted by egypturnash at 9:41 PM on March 12, 2012


we've had to take down several models to comply with the DMCA.
posted by phooky


We? Who is we if you don't mind me asking? Thingiverse or something like that?
posted by RobotHero at 10:46 PM on March 12, 2012


I'm working on a personal project that wouldn't have been possible to prototype 10 years ago for less than $2000. That one-off, custom $2000 prototype cost me $59.01, shipping included, at shapeways.

Of course that prototype needed a lot of changes, so I expect to spend at least another $60 for the second revision.

I did the 3d design in SketchUp -which is free. SketchUp can be a pain to learn if you come from traditional 3d design [3dsMax, AutoCad, etc.], but once you come to grips with it, it's great for rapid development. After you complete your model in SketchUp, you export it as a .DAE, upload to shapeways, wait about two weeks...and then UPS drops off a physical representation of your dream!

If you've always wanted to "make something", be it a better mousetrap, a robot chassis, a clone of a train box car, a kitchen implement, a paperclip, a coffee table gee-gaw, but you can't do tiny welds, or model/sculpt anything better than a snowman or a mud brick, well, now's the time to make it happen.

If you want to further reduce costs and/or replication for future sales, look into places like smooth-on for information on molding/casting your new 3d printed object.

In short, if you have a widget idea, you can probably produce a saleable object for less than $3000, probably closer to under $1000 versus what used to be $10k or more just to get started with a prototype.

And even if your product ends up not working out for you, you've learned a whole lot and hopefully had a lot of fun for very little monetary outlay.

Speaking of gee-gaws. That's one of Theo Jansen's creations.
posted by ill13 at 11:05 PM on March 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


We? Who is we if you don't mind me asking? Thingiverse or something like that?

Sorry to be vague-- yes, in this case we is Thingiverse.

What inputs do 3d printers require at this point?

STLs are the most universal. Virtually every 3D modeling tool can export STL, so you're good to go with just about anything nowadays.
posted by phooky at 11:13 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


At that rate it would take about 2 years to build up a 1 cubic centimeter object.
Is there a particular reason to think your typical 1 cubic centimetre object would be built at that rate? Unless you're planning on building a cubic centre metre object made up of 100 micron race cars. I'd imagine for bulkier parts of the item you'd be able to use a broader beam to solidify more stuff in one go.
posted by edd at 2:17 AM on March 13, 2012


Most objects are built with walls thick enough for their purpose, and a percentage (0=hollow, 100=solid) fill. IIRC 20% fill is quite enough for things that won't be supporting any weight other than their own.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:54 AM on March 13, 2012


Is there a particular reason to think your typical 1 cubic centimetre object would be built at that rate?

The magic of linear extrapolation? The point is that it would take a very long time. Even if I'm off by an order of magnitude that's still two and a half months, far longer than is reasonable.

Most objects are built with walls thick enough for their purpose, and a percentage (0=hollow, 100=solid) fill. IIRC 20% fill is quite enough for things that won't be supporting any weight other than their own.

Even assuming that the race car itself is solid, the bounding box described by its dimensions is not, so my extrapolation already took into account a certain degree of empty space.
posted by jedicus at 7:28 AM on March 13, 2012



The magic of linear extrapolation? The point is that it would take a very long time. Even if I'm off by an order of magnitude that's still two and a half months, far longer than is reasonable.

Why would you use a tool this fine to make such a large object? That is like saying that yes that scalpel sure is sharp but it will take you forever to cut down a tree with it.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 10:21 AM on March 13, 2012


Ars Technica story:
New 3D printer could create nano-devices in minutes
posted by XMLicious at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2012


Why would you use a tool this fine to make such a large object? That is like saying that yes that scalpel sure is sharp but it will take you forever to cut down a tree with it.

Well, one could make a large object with precisely-defined micrometer-scale features. That's not really available at present and could open up lots of new possibilities. For example, being able to create structures that mimic butterfly scales, which use structures on the order of a single micrometer in order to create colors and iridescent effects.

And I suppose micrometer-scale features aren't necessary for something like detailed miniatures, but they still need sub-millimeter-scale features.
posted by jedicus at 12:52 PM on March 13, 2012


I thought butterfly scales where quite small. I think it would be unfair of us to critique the process for being unable to complete the previously unimaginable in a short time frame.

I am just sitting here with my mouth wide open that this can even be done.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2012


I think it would be unfair of us to critique the process for being unable to complete the previously unimaginable in a short time frame.

Yes, it would be. But people were talking about miniatures and other macro-scale objects, so I wanted to throw some perspective on it. It's very impressive as it is.
posted by jedicus at 2:20 PM on March 13, 2012


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