The Tata Nano might be the world’s cheapest car, but researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have created the world’s smallest car with a new breed of 3D printing technology.
The open wheeled replica racer measures in at a scant 285 micrometers – just over 1/100th of an inch or a bit narrower than a strand of human hair – and was created using a combination of lasers, mirrors, and a specially formulated resin. The polymer is injected at precise increments and the molecules are activated and then hardened by the focus of the laser light.
The result is a complex structure the size of a grain of sand that used to take hours to create. According to Professor Jürgen Stampfl, “Until now, this technique used to be quite slow. The printing speed used to be measured in millimeters per second – our device can do five meters in one second.” Researchers claim that’s a world record for 3D printing technology.
The applications span the spectrum from biomedical to nanotechnology, including the creation of “scaffolds” to surround living cells. We’re just looking for them to recreate the steering wheel from one of our old MicroMachines.