The Smallest 3D Printed Things
We’ve gathered some of the smallest 3D printed things and the techniques the designers used to accomplish such detailed work. We’ll first look at some amazing nano 3D printing projects that are finding impressive applications for the progress of research and science. We’ll finish our list off with some cool tiny objects that use standard 3D printing technology.
Dutch Tiny Boat
Dutch researchers created the world’s tiniest boat to better study how tiny particles can make their way through the water. The boat is only 30 microns (or a millionth of a meter) and is one-third the size of a strand of hair. This boat requires a microscope of great magnitude to see its tiny form!
Creating the tiny boat shape was to examine the microswimmer’s ability to move through fluid in an odd form. A Nanoscribe Photonic printer is responsible for creating the little item, which is one of the highest resolution printers available for nano printing. Their study determined that 3D printing can be used to understand therapeutics and drug technologies better.
Jonty Hurwitz Sculptures
Instead of creating sculptures to be put in museums or gardens, artist Jonty Hurwitz has used 3D printing technology to create sculptures that are the size of an ant’s head. To the naked eye, you will likely not see them at all or brush them off like a speck of dust. Using photosensitive material, these incredibly detailed sculptures need to be examined under a microscope.
You can compare these sculptures’ size to sitting on a single strand of human hair or the tip of a needle.
Using 3D printer technology and the multiphoton lithography technique, the sculptures’ details can remain despite the incredibly small size. This process is time-consuming, labor-intensive, and makes use of the nano 3D printing technology.
You can check out the artist explaining his project here.
CMOS Sensor Microlenses
Again, using nano 3D printing technology, researchers have created tiny microlenses to place on CMOS sensors for tiny semiconductors in electrical circuits. The tiny chips in your computers need these sensors to operate correctly. The lenses measure as small as 300×300 micrometers!
The potential for these lenses extends beyond computers, being sound optimal equipment, cameras, and drones. Endoscopy, cameras used for medical procedures, could benefit from nanotechnology as they are less invasive or painful to use in humans. More testing needs to be done on these lenses to prove their effectiveness, but studies have garnered successful results.
Tiny Geometric Cube
SLA (stereolithography) 3D printers are more common for building objects and are widely available to consumers. They are capable of creating impressively tiny things with great detail. Geometric shapes are often easier to print at such a small size, but this 2.5 mm cube has an intricate layered design, creating the appearance of many tiny cubes.
At this small size, it was made with resin, which is an easier material to work with in many cases. The printer used was a Unirapid 3 SLA printer, made by a Japanese manufacturer.
Tiny Blue Marvin Figurine
In the 3D printing world, users will test out the quality and capabilities of their 3D printer by printing a tiny figurine named Marvin. Designers have pushed the limits in the detail and size they can print little Marvin, with the smallest coming in at 2.5mm. 3D printing manufacturer Solidscape created this impressive little figure.
A Hungarian-based firm was able to make the little figure while still keeping the impressive detailing and shape.
Using a Solus DLP 3D printer, tiny tower figures can sit on your finger at just 3mm. DLP 3D printers are also another excellent choice for printing tiny options with precision. These are also available on the market for consumers to purchase. You can check out the printer that made these tiny towers here.
The towers are not only small but very detailed. The variety of detail work can have other applications, such as designs for jewelry and ornate decorations. The level of artistic ability at such a small size opens up the possibilities for many other creative applications.
How Small Can 3D Printers Print?
The technology type and nozzle size on a 3D printer will dictate the size of the things you can print. Using nano 3D printers will be necessary to compete with the smallest 3D printed things on our list. These are still only used in lab settings and have not been made available to the public.
Nano 3D printers can print objects in micrometers, or millionths of a meter. Your standard 3D printers used outside labs are making objects and pieces between 2-5 millimeters. The difference in size between these two types of technologies is quite vast, but both serve their purpose in the tiny 3D printer creation space.
There are multiple types of 3D printers that employ different technologies to complete tasks. For printing microscopic objects, you should consider using one of the following printers:
- Fused deposition modeling (FDM): This is one of the most popular 3D printing technologies that builds items layer by layer. It can complete small items quickly with a smaller surface area.
- Stereolithography (SLA): Taking much longer to complete projects, SLA printers harden liquid plastic to create a tangible and fully formed item. It is then formed in an ultraviolet oven to complete production. It prints the entire developed item at once, which can still provide great detail on a small or large scale.
- Digital light processing (DLP): This process uses bright light to harden the resin used in building the items or models. It is similar to SLA with the need for photopolymers but requires this bright light source. Objects can be printed very quickly using this method.
While there are other methods used for 3D printing, the ones mentioned above are the most widely available on the market and produce the best results for printing a wide range of objects, including very small ones. The 3D printer’s quality will often dictate the quality and detail you can produce with your objects.
The Smallest 3D Printed Things
The capabilities of 3D printers to create the smallest objects are incredible. The advancements in technology to make items smaller than the tip of a needle and still useful for research are groundbreaking. Not only are these items cool to look at (many of them under a microscope), but the use of 3D printing tiny things helps to drive progress in many practical and helpful applications.