In the midst of the 3D printers making weapons and ammunition hullabaloo, a new version has been introduced that can create a weapon smaller than a grain of sand.
This month at Photonics West, the international fair for photonics in San Francisco, Nanoscribe GmbH introduced a micrometer scale 3D printer.
With this technology, tiny structures at a nanometer size can be fabricated.
According to the Germany based company, it is the world's fastest 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures. It makes three-dimensional objects smaller than the width of human hair quickly with maximum resolution.
For example, the printer can create a miniaturized spacecraft in less than one minute.
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Based on innovative laser lithography method, this system increases the printing speed about 100 times.
It leverages a technology similar to that for scanning units of CD and DVD drives and laser shows. Called the galvo mirror system, a laser beam is reflected off rotating mirrors for rapid and precise laser focus.
In order to achieve their direct laser writing technique, their 3D printing method relies on two-photon polymerization.
Photonics research looks at using higher performance circuits instead of conventional electronics. Drawing from this progress, Nanoscribe’s printer can reach more than five terabits per second to print polymer waveguides.
Two photon polymerization works sort of like when you take a magnifying glass and use it to magnify the sun to ignite a piece of paper. Ultra-short laser pulses polymerize photosensitive materials and create the desired self-supporting micro- and nanostructures.
Printing three-dimensional objects in such incredibly fine detail opens up many areas where it could be useful ranging from defense through to medicine.
For biomedical technology or nanotechnology, the 3D printer could be used to create tailor made construction parts.
The printer could for example create biological tissues by printing scaffolds that living cells to which attach themselves.
From a security perspective, this means it could have potential for research in defense against chemical and biological weapons.
It also has a lot of potential for defense advanced materials development.
Last year, researchers at the Vienna University of Technology also announced a key breakthrough in accelerating the speed of high-precision-3D-printer with nano-precision.
Allison Barrie consults at the highest levels of defense, has travelled to more than 70 countries, is a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and now the author of the new book "Future Weapons: Access Granted" covering invisible tanks through to thought-controlled fighter jets. You can click here for more information on FOX Firepower columnist and host Allison Barrie and you can follow her on Twitter @allison_barrie.