3D Printer Creates Magazine Cover Smaller Than A Grain of Salt

3D Printer Creates Magazine Cover Smaller Than A Grain of Salt

McGill University's new 3D printer could produce 2000 copies of the same object before you'd finally spot them without a microscope.

If you thought the tech industry had a strange habit of miniaturizing everything, know that the print industry is now fully capable of catching up in that department. Canadian researchers at McGill University recently put a new microscopic 3D printer through its paces by producing a 0.011 by 0.014 millimeter National Geographic Kids cover, along with a map of Canada measured in micrometers. Obviously these images are impossible to view normally and could only be seen with the aid of a screen projecter. In fact, the magazine printout is so miniscule that if you made 2000 copies, you'd have just enough to cover a single grain of salt.

The ability to print microscopic objects isn't new, but this printer is praised for being cheaper, easier to use, and smaller than other nanotech tools. By operating a chisel with a tip 100,000 times smaller then sharpened pencil point, the printer can carve microscopic patterns on a strip of polymer within two to three minutes.

Outside of being a godsend to book publishers in Whoville, this 3D printer has several practical applications for scientific fields. Much like the larger 3D printers we're more familiar with, the device can produce a staggering variety of nano-objects. Possibilities include energy-efficient cellphone transistors, nano-sized security tags, and even specialized treatments for conditions like Alzheimer's.

"It's going to help researchers a lot, in terms of turnaround," said Matthieu Nannini of McGill's nanotools-microfab facility. "When a researcher has an idea, and he or she wants to test it right away, they are going to be able to do that with this machine."

This sounds incredibly promising for scientists, although you shouldn't expect a consumer model of this printer anytime soon. Issues of practicality aside, each unit costs about $500,000, which dashes my hopes of creating microscopic tabletop miniatures.

Source: CTV

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Fanghawk:
each unit costs about $500,000, which dashes my hopes of creating microscopic tabletop miniatures.

Not necessarily. If you bought one of those printers, you could make your miniatures, then contract use of the machine out to other people for profit. Eventually through economies of scale, maybe you can make your money back!

So it's a subtractive printing method, as opposed to most macro-scale 3D printers which are additive. That's pretty awesome. $500,000 is actually a pretty reasonable price for high-tech, low volume equipment. We have automated semiconductor test equipment at work that costs even more than that.

Note: For future reference, engineering notation (scientific notation but ONLY with powers of 10 that are multiples of 3) with SI prefixes, i.e. 0.011 mm => 11 x 10^(-6) m => 11 Ám, looks really nice in print and is easier to interpret at first glance. Just a thought.

Wow, that's some impressive precision. At that level, I wonder how much it can do before wear and tear causes so much backlash that your workpiece is completely unrecognizable. The minimal amount of force it needs to carve out the workpiece might help it last longer.

At $500,000 it seems to be a prototype machine made with parts that have super close tolerances. A typical CNC machining center of that price would take up the entire room in the pic with no wiggle room, but its precision would only go down to .002 or .001 mm. This baby is far more precise to be able to make an image at that scale.

Wow, making magazines that I can't read without an electron microscope. Truly science has created a wonder today. I mean I don't need a jetpack, but you could at least be working on the next moon landing or something.

Racecarlock:
Wow, making magazines that I can't read without an electron microscope. Truly science has created a wonder today. I mean I don't need a jetpack, but you could at least be working on the next moon landing or something.

Well eventually this sort of machine could be manufacturing a lot of components for space travel. The smaller the payload the less fuel you need right.

What is this? A magazine for ants?*

*really small ants

Racecarlock:
Wow, making magazines that I can't read without an electron microscope. Truly science has created a wonder today. I mean I don't need a jetpack, but you could at least be working on the next moon landing or something.

It's a proof of concept; a demonstration. They made a tool, not the final solution to all problems it can potentially solve. Then again, with that attitude, even if they actually did made another moon landing happen, you'd complain about them just having made a moon landing instead of curing cancer.

Denamic:

Racecarlock:
Wow, making magazines that I can't read without an electron microscope. Truly science has created a wonder today. I mean I don't need a jetpack, but you could at least be working on the next moon landing or something.

It's a proof of concept; a demonstration. They made a tool, not the final solution to all problems it can potentially solve. Then again, with that attitude, even if they actually did made another moon landing happen, you'd complain about them just having made a moon landing instead of curing cancer.

Pfft, you think too small. They should be curing cancer on the moon, dammit!

OT: I'm picturing some bizarre scenario now where microbial life finds this thing and starts pondering the ramifications of life on a macro scale. It'd be a bit like humans finding out Galactus is real.

Well personally I'm looking forward to reading this one while on the bog. "National Geographic Kids" isn't exactly my scene though. How about "PC Pro" or "Retro Gamer"?

I dunno. If I were a poor super-villain I'd be excited about lowering the costs on my nanovirus project, but I think the ability to manufacture small stuff is moving ahead of the science for us needing to manufacture small stuff.

 

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