World's smallest 3D printer created

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A research team at the Vienna University of Technology says it's built a small, low-cost 3D printer that could soon make it into people's homes.

Using their device, they say, everyone could produce small, tailor-made 3D-objects at home, using blueprints from the internet.

Unlike existing 3D printers, the Vienna prototype is no larger than a carton of milk. It weighs just 1.5 kilograms, and can be manufactured for only 1200 Euros.

"We will continue to reduce the size of the printer, and the price will definitely decrease too, if it is produced in large quantities," says one of the printer's developers, Klaus Stadlmann.

As with other versions, the desired object is printed in a small tub filled with a synthetic resin which hardens precisely where it is illuminated with intense beams of light. When one layer hardens, the next layer can be attached to it, until the object is completed.

"This way, we can even produce complicated geometrical objects with an intricate inner structure, which could never be made using casting techniques," says Stadlmann.

The team says the printer’s resolution is excellent, with the individual layers hardened by the light beams measuring just a twentieth of a millimetre thick.

This means it can be used for applications which require extraordinary precision. While it's not particularly useful for large-scale production of bulk articles, it offers the possibility of tailor-made, individually adjusted items.

The team is now working with a variety of different 3D-techniques and materials such as ceramics and polymers.