Telling someone you’ve just given them an invisible Christmas present sounds like a pretty bold cop-out of buying someone a gift, but in rare cases it’s a legitimate statement, and one that’s sure to impress the recipient. The government of Lithuania, along with researchers in Vilnius, the country’s capital, announced that they have sent Pope Francis a nativity scene invisible to the naked eye. A replica of the full-sized nativity scene in downtown Vilnius, the creche was 3D printed at the nanoscale – Baby Jesus is smaller than a human cell, the creators say.

I suspect Pope Francis has seen many nativity scenes over his lifetime, probably more than the average person, but it’s not every day that you receive one that has to be viewed through a microscope. Since nanoscale 3D printing has become possible, it seems to have become an interesting custom to present microscopic items as diplomatic gifts. Although the items are too small to see without a microscope, they’re still perfect replicas of their larger counterparts, down to the most intricate detail, and that makes them incredibly fascinating.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė posted a picture of herself on Twitter using a microscope to look at another nanoscale copy of the nativity scene, commenting that “the most important things [are] invisible to the naked eye.”

The nanoscale creche is being called the world’s smallest nativity scene, and while the official title is still pending as the Guinness World Records officials look it over, it’s hard to imagine that there’s a smaller nativity scene floating around out there somewhere. People generally don’t just 3D print microscopic tableaux for fun – when things like this are created, they’re generally well-publicized, even when they may seem a little silly.

The tiny (an understatement) nativity scene was created by students and professors at the LinkMenu Fabrikas center at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU). They 3D scanned the life-sized nativity scene in the downtown Vilnius square, then created a 3D model and shrank it down by a scale of 10,000. They then 3D printed it, and the entire thing can fit on a single human eyelash, which gives a whole new meaning to “blink and you’ll miss it” (and can make such works of arts unsurprisingly easy to lose).

There’s a part in the Bible that says “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Well, there appears to be a camel nestled comfortably along with its fellow animals in the eye of a needle, so there may be some hope for rich men after all.

The nativity scene took three months to make, and includes 15 separate sculptures: the Holy Family, the Three Wise Men, shepherds and animals. 30 people worked on the project altogether – besides students and professors, the companies Femtika and Idėja 3D were also involved. The final product is 300 micrometers in size (0.3 mm).

“With the festive season upon us, we would like to demonstrate to the world an exceptional science and business potential in high-technology market in Lithuania,” said Eglė Girdzijauskaitė, Vice Director at LinkMenu Fabrikas. “We do not only master the technology, but we are also able to apply it creatively by developing a new form to an old tradition, and combining both intellectual and cultural achievements of humanity. It is very important that VGTU students have a chance to work on such unprecedented interdisciplinary and multifaceted projects in cooperation with researchers, companies and public bodies.”

Five copies of the nanoscale nativity scene were produced altogether. One went to Pope Francis, while another will remain in the Lithuanian Presidential Palace in Vilnius, and a third will stay in the Vilnius Archdiocese. The last two will be made available to the public.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: Vilnius Gediminas Technical University]

 

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