While 3D printing of toys, iPhone covers and jewelry continues to grab headlines, much of 3D printing’s impact could be at a much smaller scale. Micrometer-scale printing has shown promise for making medical and electronic devices.
Thiel says it should be possible to speed up his company’s microprinting technique even more in the future. Nanoscribe plans to start selling its machine in the second half of this year.
Printing microstructures with features a few hundred nanometers in size could be useful for making heart stents, microneedles for painless shots, gecko adhesives, parts for microfluidics chips, and scaffolds for growing cells and tissue. Another important application could be in the electronics industry, where patterning nanoscale features on chips currently involves slow, expensive techniques. 3D printing would quickly and cheaply yield polymer templates that could be used to make metallic structures.
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