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Nanoscribe claims world’s fastest commercially available nano-3D printer title


March 3, 2013

The Photonic Professional GT - the world’s fastest commercially available 3D printer for micro- and nanostructures (Photo: Nanoscribe)

The Photonic Professional GT - the world’s fastest commercially available 3D printer for micro- and nanostructures (Photo: Nanoscribe)

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Shoes, robots, houses and prosthetic hands, 3D printing has already gone well beyond the bounds of model making, and biotechnology is another of the new frontiers where the technology is set to make a huge impact. Nanoscribe GmbH, a spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is pushing the boundaries of this space with the release of what's claimed to be the world’s fastest and highest resolution commercially available 3D printer of micro- and nanostructures – the Photonic Professional GT.

The Photonic Professional GT uses a 3D laser lithography system developed by Nanoscribe that can handle data transfer rates of more than 5 terabits per second. The system achieves its high-speed through the use of galvo technology – a series of rotating mirrors that deflect laser light for quick and precise focus. Similar technology is used in laser light shows and in the scanning units of CD and DVD drives.

Using this system, tiny 3D objects are created through the use of two-photon polymerization, where ultra-short laser pulses are trained on photosensitive material, polymerizing it. Once areas of the photosensitive base-material are exposed, the material is developed and unwanted material washed out, leaving self-supporting micro- and nanostructures.

According to Nanoscribe, the scanning field is limited physically to "a few 100 µm" (µm = micrometer = one-thousandth of a millimeter). These scanning fields can then be precisely stitched together, like floor tiles, to extend the printing area.

While the technology is targeted at biotech applications, such as creating scaffolds for cell growth studies, Nanoscribe has chosen a rather more novel way to demonstrate the speed and precision of the technology – the video below shows the real-time printing of a Hellcat spaceship from the Wing Commander Saga that measures just 125µm x 81µm x 26.8µm (l x w x h) ... that's about as long as the width of a human hair. The overall printing time was less than one minute.

The Photonic Professional GT was announced at the Photonics West international fair in San Francisco last month.

Sources: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Nanoscribe

About the Author
Leon Gettler An award winning author and freelance journalist with a strong background in newspapers, magazines and podcasts, Leon is passionately drawn to all things innovative and unknown with a deep interest in telecommunications, environmental technology and design. When not indulging his passion for reading and writing, he can be found memorizing lines immortalized by Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. All articles by Leon Gettler

A dream come true, would love to see one of our Qubits® Toys printed with this device. James Gimzewski UCLA would get a great laugh out of that because we discussed this back in 2005. Now it is here. Amazing!

Mark Burginger

I was about to be impressed at a 3D printer that could do nanoscale printing. This however is a lithography device, and not a 3D printer at all.

Jon A.

Wow! This is a huge leap forward. I never would have thought that 3D printer is capable to print with such accuracy. Congrats!

Rafael Kireyev

@Jon: How, lithography? Lithography etches away solid material. This device polymerizes layers of solid from a liquid or dissolvable matrix, which is then drained from the finished object. It works in essentially the same way as most large-scale 3-D printers. The key difference is, 3D printing is an additive process, while lithography is subtractive.


It's a nice job and very useful (subject to review and use of the GUI, and 3D file formats along with stitching).

However it is NOT NANO-3D printing at all and not likely to be any time soon. It is MICRO-3D Printing.

Nano means 100 nanometers to 1/10 of a nanometer.

The demo showed 2 to 4 micron minimum structures and the lasers used are not going to make spot sizes smaller then 1 micron (1000 nanometers) ever over the 100 micron range.


I didn't see the distribution of media while sintering. I suspect this isn't real.

Gary Richardson

@attoman, it is in fact "nano" 3D printed as you have defined. They have published prints with features ~100nm wide. Initially I also thought it is impossible to get spots smaller than 1 um, but the diffraction limit here is overcome by superimposing two constructively interfering pulse which basically creates a beam with a gaussian squared intensity profile. from this they set the beam power so that only a small portion of the airy disk meets the threshold requirement for polymerization, and voila you have a 100nm feature. Now that doesnt mean that they have 100nm absolute spatial accuracy due to beam alignment issues, but it seems like they can get 100nm relative spatial accuracy which for most print-type applications is OK unless you are trying to print in a very specific place.

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