When it comes to 3D printing, there is a lot of talk about large scale printing. In this past year alone, we have seen things as large as a house 3D printed using the technology that we have today. The world has a fascination with large things, thus this is why there has been so much media attention surrounding the 3D printing of cars, houses, and other large structures as of late. However, equally impressive, although not quite as ‘sexy’ to the mainstream media, is the 3D printing of nano structures. These are structures that are extremely tiny, and provide for the potential of creating new materials, new medical devices, and more. The possibilities are really endless.
There are several companies which currently have the technology to utilize lasers to 3D print nano structures. However, today 3DPrint.com learns that one company has just broken a record for creating a machine that allows them to 3D print ‘the largest’ nano structures yet. Isn’t that an oxymoron?
“We, the company TETRA in Germany, have developed a nano-3D-printer,” Norman Petzold of Tetra tells 3DPrint.com. “It is based on two-photon-lithography (2PP) and is able to write nano structures with resolutions of 400 nm. There are already printers, which are based on 2PP and which have the same resolutions, but the new thing on our nano structures is that they are ten times bigger than the current [technology]. Current nano structures are available at 2 or 3 mm height. Our structures can be [up to] 30 x 30 x 30 mm³ with a resolution of 400 nm. This is current world record.”
The process, which TETRA’s printers use, is called Two-Photo-Polymerization (2PP) and it is a lithographic technique where photo-sensitive, polymerizable liquids such as hydrogels are cross-linked using an ultra-short-pulse-laser. This laser cures the material, allowing for final products which are incredibly small in size, yet also very intricate in detail.
Some of the materials available to print with using 2PP include acrylate monomers, and biomolecules. This technology is very useful for creating products which can be used for:
- Tissue Engineering
- Cell Biology
- Drug Discovery
- High resolution cell scaffolds
The laser used within these machines feature a wavelength of 780 nm and a pulse duration of less than 120fs. This provides for very minute detail in a tiny space.
It should be interesting to see how this technology progresses in the coming years and how various businesses and institutions put it to use. Allowing for the 3D printing of small, detailed objects could revolutionize medicine in more ways than one. The fact that these machines are no longer limited to printing objects of 3mm in size means much more potential lies ahead.
What do you think about TETRA’s latest nano structure 3D printer. What types of unique uses do you foresee for this technology now and in the future? Discuss in the TETRA Nano Structure forum thread on 3DPB.com.