It’s quite impressive how science has been able to miniaturize certain things over the past decade. But nothing is quite impressive as this: a 3D printed tugboat that is a third smaller than the thickness of a human hair. Physicists at Leiden University in the Netherlands are the ones behind this achievement and the goal is to understand how “microswimmers” such as bacteria move through liquids.
As Engadget points out, the team had to use a Nanoscribe 3D microprinter using a process referred to as 2PP (two-photon polymerization). To put it in very basic terms, the 3D print uses extremely accurate lasers and a material that hardens almost immediately after being printed.
Something that’s very fascinating is the level of detailing on the cockpit of the boat. A boat’s cockpit is very intricate and detailed, with dozens upon dozens of various shapes and sizes. 3D printing the cockpit this tiny is very impressive given the level of detail required.
While the project was “fun” for the team originally, they have been able to develop more research-based objects. These objects can determine the speed and path of various particles.
This breakthrough could potentially be massive for the medical and drug industry. With 3D printed objects this small and precise, you can potentially create specific objects that emulate biological microswimmers that can move in exact motions. “Ultimately, it will allow a greater control and design of the behavior of synthetic microswimmers, useful for applications in therapeutic diagnostics and drug delivery,” according to the research paper.