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Nanoscale 3D Printer Now Commercially Available

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the small-jobs dept.

Science 127

kkleiner writes "Now the field of 3D printing has advanced so far that a company called Nanoscribe is offering one of the first commercially available 3D printers for the nanoscale. Nanoscribe's machine can produce tiny 3D printed objects that are only the width of a single human hair. Amazingly this includes 3D printed objects such as spaceships, micro needles, or even the empire state building."

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WHAT ?? ANOTHER !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43199701)

How many times does a "3d" printer warrant a slashvertizement slot?

Re:WHAT ?? ANOTHER !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43199903)

It's the new Bitcoin. :P

Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year ago | (#43199729)

n/t

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43199777)

typical bs clickbait headline.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (2, Insightful)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year ago | (#43199921)

so 30nm resolution is not nano scale enough for you?

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (5, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year ago | (#43199999)

> so 30nm resolution is not nano scale enough for you?

That's 3% at one micron: barely adequate for devices with minimum dimensions of one micron and up. For nanoscale devices you need one nanometer or better.

Look at the examples. They're all dimensioned in the tens to hundreds of microns.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (3, Interesting)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about a year ago | (#43200523)

I get your point, but I think you and Slashdot have to come to terms with the fact that "nano" is now buzz-word compliant. It's like how "Sanitation Engineer" started making everyone an engineer.

"Nano" actually now means "small" to the press. I'm sorry it isn't technically correct, but you are going to have to get used to it.

Now, I've got some bad news to tell you about "quantum" as well...

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (4, Insightful)

hairyfish (1653411) | about a year ago | (#43200711)

"Nano" actually now means "small" to the press. I'm sorry it isn't technically correct, but you are going to have to get used to it.

No we're not. I can accept this interpretation in the local rag, but Slashdot's target audience is smart people (apparently). We should be sticking to technically accurate terminology at all times.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43201563)

Uh, Slashdot *is* my local rag.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43202347)

You're new here, aren't you...:)

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200735)

No, I won't just get used to it; I will rightly call anyone who uses the term incorrectly an imbecile and proceed to correct them.

That'll show them!

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

Idou (572394) | about a year ago | (#43200643)

Yes, technically it is only micro . . . until you use it to print a printer, which can print true nano.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43201023)

"Nano" is considered sub 100 nm in any one spatial dimension, as defined by government funding agencies.

If that happens to mean anything to you :D

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43201149)

For nanoscale devices you need one nanometer or better.

Pardon my ignorance but, according to whom? My attempt to seek clarification on this wasn't very fruitful and the definitions that I found insisted that it only had to relate to scale of nanometers which this device purports to do. Is it that you want it to mean something else or am I missing something?

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (5, Informative)

dissy (172727) | about a year ago | (#43201357)

It's a bit of a long read, but (IMHO) one of the best sources on the matter is Engines of Creation [e-drexler.com] by Eric Drexler.

He describes the very concept of nanotechnology, defines it as well as much philosophy around it, with plenty of examples of thing that can be done once manufacturing on this scale is achieved.

Such machines do technically already exist, such as the ribosome. Once a similar machine is created that is under complete human control pragmatically, it will be a world altering event.

If you think of the process of a cell performing its work, dividing, assembling its programmed structure, and eventually creating something on the macro scale like a whale or elephant - then you are thinking on the right scale.

The 3D printer referenced in the article is not yet able to produce structures at this scale, let alone functional machines at this scale.
At best it might be one step on the path towards true nanotechnology, as smaller tools build smaller tools and so on.

Some additional material on the subject that found recently was on youtube under productive nanosystems [youtube.com]
While this is purely an artists rendering, one video I happened upon that really brings home the scale factor is their nano-factory [youtube.com] video.

This is what most people are referring to when using the term nanotechnology.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#43201699)

Thank you VERY much and, obviously, I haven't read it yet but I'll push my way through it when I'm done going through my daily ritual of reading, posting, and catching up. I appreciate it more than it may seem and your well thought out answer is something I see less frequently around here so my appreciation goes up accordingly. It doesn't really totally answer my question though I guess it does indirectly? So, please correct me if I'm mistaken...

The dictionary definition of nanoscale means something related to, or measured in, nanometers which, of course, could include very large objects being measured in nanometers for no other reason other than that's the unit of measurement the person chose. This definition, while fine for a layperson or a generic use dictionary, isn't adequate for academic or professional use.

Thus, either definitively or colloquially, the term "nanoscale" is more specifically, technologically or professionally, restricted to things measuring 1 nanometer or less?

Is that correct or correct enough for a laypersons vocabulary?

Once again, I appreciate the answer and will plod through the Engines of Creation because a quick glance indicates that it is very interesting.

One of the major benefits (that I can see) is that this printer doesn't NEED to print stuff that small - it CAN print stuff that small which means that larger objects can be printed with a greater degree of accuracy. I see the precision being the benefit more so than the scale being the benefit. The majority of commenters here on /. seem to be concentrating on how small they can potentially build things which is great and all but my thoughts immediately went to how larger things can be made with a finer degree of accuracy which means less trimming, greater tolerances, and greater control when prototyping.

Again, thanks.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

dissy (172727) | about a year ago | (#43201851)

You're quite welcome! This has always been a fascinating subject to me, both in terms of the science around it as well as the science fictiony type day dreams it can invoke. (And appologies in advance if this reply turns into a nice long rambling on the subject)
We are well on our way to this level of technology already, and the future is looking to be too amazing for words.

The dictionary definition of nanoscale means something related to, or measured in, nanometers which, of course, could include very large objects being measured in nanometers for no other reason other than that's the unit of measurement the person chose. This definition, while fine for a layperson or a generic use dictionary, isn't adequate for academic or professional use.

Thus, either definitively or colloquially, the term "nanoscale" is more specifically, technologically or professionally, restricted to things measuring 1 nanometer or less?

Is that correct or correct enough for a laypersons vocabulary?

I actually wish there was a more definitive answer everyone could agree on to give you.
Some say 1nm or less, others say measuring in single digits or fractions of a nm, while others say measuring in the units of nm.

Of course that last one has the very problem you point out. A millimeter is just a million nanometers after all. I can sort of see the point when basing things on the metric scale of 1000's, but that would include objects up to the size of 999nm, before switching to the next unit of measurement (micro), such as this 3D printer is using.

Because nanotechnology specifically refers to objects, devices, and machines built at the atomic/molecular scale, I personally subscribe to the "1nm or less" school of thought in order to link the two more easily for me. However I can definitely understand where others are coming from when using the "under 1nm up to 10nm" definition.

For a direct answer, I would say that yes you are correct, with the condition that larger than 1nm is acceptable (getting less and less acceptable for each order of magnitude higher one goes ;)

For a good mental image, say one created a computer that was truly nanoscale, lets say 10 nano meters long, with the same power as your smart phone currently has.
You would be able to stack 100 of those devices end to end, and still fit the whole combined structure inside a living human cell with plenty of room left over around it.

Or put another way, my phone is about 5 inches tall. If this was nanoscale and we put 100 of them end to end, 500 inches is almost 13 meters, or just over 40 feet long.

One of the major benefits (that I can see) is that this printer doesn't NEED to print stuff that small - it CAN print stuff that small which means that larger objects can be printed with a greater degree of accuracy. I see the precision being the benefit more so than the scale being the benefit. The majority of commenters here on /. seem to be concentrating on how small they can potentially build things which is great and all but my thoughts immediately went to how larger things can be made with a finer degree of accuracy which means less trimming, greater tolerances, and greater control when prototyping.

That is a very good point! In fact, when looking at the device in comparison to our current high end 3D printers, this is a major advancement that may solve quite a few problems already being run into on the edge cases. Higher tolerances on larger objects is still extremely useful.

I suppose it's not dissimilar to comparing our little home computers, in that we can afford them easily along with all they are capable of, to the "big iron" from the likes of IBM and cray, showing what humanity is capable of at the high end.

This printer most certainly puts a little reprap to shame ;}

I certainly wasn't intending to put down their accomplishment, in case it came off that way.
But their images do show the scale measured in micrometers, not nanometers.
(aka & micro; - or "um" as I'm sure slashdot will strip that html)
Nanoscale is "nm" and a full 1000 times smaller.

Still, this is an amazing accomplishment for a 3D printer.

When I mentioned smaller tools creating yet smaller tools as our stepping stones to true nanotechnology, such printing techniques will certainly come in useful.

Just imagine an electron microscope, capable of viewing objects on the 20-60 nanometer scale, contains microchips and other components created using photolithography techniques that act on the micrometer scale.
We had to invent a manufacturing process that small, to build tools of the size to work with things even smaller.

For all we know, this printing technique (or one based off it) may be the very thing needed to create tools and machinery capable of building at the nano scale.
It's unfortunately hard to know how far off it is, or how many incremental steps we still have to go.

So while it may not be printing a device that can swim inside a living cell to do useful work for us, such research can only help us get closer.

In the mean time, enjoying the higher precision of larger objects is still a huge win for technology in general. Just imagine what Lego could do with such a device :D

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | about a year ago | (#43201467)

Nanoscopic Scale (redirected from Nanoscale) [wikipedia.org] : The nanoscopic scale usually refers to structures with a length scale applicable to nanotechnology, usually cited as 1-100 nanometers.

Nanotechnology [wikipedia.org] : A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. (emphasis mine)

What you're thinking about is probably (also from the Nanotechnology article)

The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. [wikipedia.org]

Definitions change and sometimes, as in this case, become more precisely delineated. This printer is nanoscale by current definitions and it's a pretty big leap forward for small-scale design and manufacturing. For some perspective, Intel and AMD introduced 32nm processors in 2010 and Intel brought out 22nm processors last year.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

Sigg3.net (886486) | about a year ago | (#43202115)

That's what she said.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43199939)

It states the resolution is 30 nm, so yeah nano.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (0)

seven of five (578993) | about a year ago | (#43200473)

30 nm resolution means "some" nanoscale features, not nanoscale finished objects.

Re:Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200843)

n/t

"nice tits"???

Re: Amazing technology but micro, not nano. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200881)

Thank you.

A buggy proposition. (0)

Ostracus (1354233) | about a year ago | (#43199757)

So with this printer will I be able to create nano-spy-bugs?

Re:A buggy proposition. (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43200047)

Well, we've got a long way to go between printed nanoscale tchotchke and something functional, but yeah, it does seem like a big step in that direction. I've seen some rather sophisticated fully functional planetary gear assemblies and such printed all at once on a makerbot, and while it took a lot of trimming to get it working properly I suspect such a thing would be far easier and cleaner to do in a precision instrument like this, especially since (I believe) the polymerization process used means that the printed structure is basically suspended in a neutral buoyancy tank during the process, allowing for far less supporting structure that will need to be removed afterwards. And once we can print a fully articulated micro-scale robot, well then all we'll need is the ability to add motors, sensors, batteries, and a CPU...

Hmm, okay, so still maybe a ways off. Still, researchers have managed to harness bacteria for propulsion, and a syrup reservoir would make a good nanoscale fuel tank for those. Sensors could be a bit of a challenge, or maybe not - I don't know the state of the art on that front, but for a CPU a nervous-net based architecture could potentially manage quite sophisticated behavior using only a handful of transistors and very primitive sensors, even if we would have to control it more like a remote control cockroach/rat/etc. than a deterministic robot.

Interesting times...

Just what I wanted (2, Funny)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43199759)

Nano Trinkets

Save space on your shelf for more useless plastic models, combine two buzzwords at once, join the future today with nanomakerbot 2.0!

Re:Just what I wanted (0)

lurking_giant (1087199) | about a year ago | (#43200063)

So can it print the magazine for a mini-gun? No, wait, mini-guns are belt fed.

How do you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200189)

My first thought was: It works! Trust us!

Re:Just what I wanted (1)

Angelwrath (125723) | about a year ago | (#43200347)

"Look honey, it's a nano bouquet of flowers."

"What is this, a joke?!"

Re:Just what I wanted (4, Funny)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#43200407)

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Re:Just what I wanted (2)

TheLink (130905) | about a year ago | (#43200887)

Nano Trinkets

You can make money selling trinkets. So if it can create something in the centimeter scale with nanometer details in a short space of time (hours or even minutes) then it might be interesting for making custom jewellery. That's assuming you can do iridescent colours: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_coloration [wikipedia.org]

Re:Just what I wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43201753)

"Nano Trinkets
You can make money selling trinkets. "

You mean, soon there will be hippies in Malibu printing out rice corns with your face in 3d on it?

Re:Just what I wanted (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43201083)

Just wait 'til Apple hears about it and creates the new iPod nanonano. The one that you can plug completely into your ear.

But I guess it would be hard to market to the usual Apple crowd. I mean, who'd know that they have an Apple product if it is invisible to the naked eye?

Amazing (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | about a year ago | (#43199761)

And again. That video is amazing.

Re:Amazing (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43200005)

Yeah, had to watch it twice just for the grin I got from watching it the first time. This is some serious nerdsmanship.

I'd like to know where one might use a stent 20nm. wide.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200075)

Why is this amazing but the way ICs are made is not?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NGFhc8R_uO4 [youtube.com]

Re:Amazing (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about a year ago | (#43200455)

Exactly which one of us said it isn't?

Re:Amazing (3, Insightful)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#43201465)

I'm childish enough to find many things amazing.

Sometimes in the wee hours when the mind roams I still get a hint of the simple rush from my first experience with an interactive computer, one of the early 8-bit machines: I press a key, and a letter shows up on the screen. Very simple it is; yet all the tech, all the science underlying it, the full range of variously insightful to plodding accomplishments needed to design and build the circuits and instructions still fascinates. I try to appreciate and accord value to well-designed, well-made items that are shepherded through the constraints of materials, cost to build, and market vagaries, amongst others - be it a nail clippers or a CPU.

My knowledge being small, my understanding smaller, my ignorance vast as Universe, there's plenty for amazement.

Am I amazed enough for you, or will you slough me off as simply dotty?

Re:Amazing (2)

VoidCrow (836595) | about a year ago | (#43201697)

I feel pretty much the same way. People take so much for granted, Even cutlery,,, how long would it take for an Iron Age blacksmith to craft a single cutlery set? Chariot wheels are actually quite complex. A composite bow? Contrast that with a modern electronic item, or any of a huge range of custom=designed materials. The insight required to modify genomes to produce somewhat predictable outcomes?

It's staggering. I think anyone who misses the significance of all of this is seriously lacking in imagination.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43202335)

Well that's the proper way to look at it. What worries me are the uncritical gee-whiz people who think we'll 3D print integrated circuits at home, in between runs of synthetic human organs. Now I'd be the first to be *for* that kind of technology, but I just don't think it's actually possible. There's a reason chip fabs cost in the billions and surgery is still risky. Things are a whole lot more complex than just getting epoxy to cure in a certain pattern under exposure of a laser beam being scanned around with a mirror.

"The Empire State Building" (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43199785)

Since when is the ESB considered "nano-scale"?

Re:"The Empire State Building" (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about a year ago | (#43199801)

Ask a Zentraedi.

Re:"The Empire State Building" (2)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#43200507)

Well, they never specified which unit the nano- was prefixed to.

A nanoparsec would be about 30,000km, a nanolightyear around 10,000km, and a nano-AU would be around 150m. By any of those, the ESB would be "nano-scale" (or below).

Re:"The Empire State Building" (1)

bn-7bc (909819) | about a year ago | (#43201311)

A nanoparsec is rather large, but iirc meteris trhe SI unit for distance so it is implied. But I had to smile when I realised that my apartment is rather small I mean .0033 nanaAU^2 does not sound mouch does it, I wonder how well my apartment wold sell if I use that unit when I sell it at some point. :)

Perfect! (2, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | about a year ago | (#43199853)

It's perfect for those moments, when somebody starts complaining about stuff that you may not care about at all, because you can print the world's smallest violin and you can print the worlds smallest hands to play the smallest violin as well!

Re:Perfect! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200041)

You need the world's smallest hands to give you a handjob, don't you?

Re:Perfect! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200095)

At least you don't have to worry about one thing, giving a BJ to a bag of dicks.

(hint, it's about your mouth)

Shut the fuck up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200109)

It was just a joke you stupid nigger. No need to get all defensive like I just told you you can't be gay anymore or something.

Not molecular printing unfortunately (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a year ago | (#43199863)

With the mention of the word 'nano', I was hoping for an advance in molecular/atomic printing. I'd love the ability to mass produce objects (even just cubes) of various materials.

Re:Not molecular printing unfortunately (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43200183)

With the mention of the word 'nano', I was hoping for an advance in molecular/atomic printing. I'd love the ability to mass produce objects (even just cubes) of various materials.

Careful with those - De Beers [wikipedia.org] might strongly object to mass producing cubic structures from carbon atoms.

Re:Not molecular printing unfortunately (2)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year ago | (#43200487)

considering blood wont be shed for them I would say thats a far better idea.

Re:Not molecular printing unfortunately (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43201101)

Considering how I strongly object to some of their practices, you may rest assured that what I give about it is not even close to 50% of the waste product after metabolizing food.

Re:Not molecular printing unfortunately (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43200329)

I dare say the value of such objects will sharply decline if their production becomes cheap.

Re:Not molecular printing unfortunately (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43201113)

Price may, value depends on usefulness.

Not everything that has a high value has a price tag attached to it. No matter what our market tries to blind you with.

Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43199923)

Can it print say, water filters? What type of material(s) can be used to print?

Re:Awesome (1, Redundant)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about a year ago | (#43199947)

This model only prints violins.

Re:Awesome (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | about a year ago | (#43200461)

If I worked there, that'd definitely be the first thing I'd print. After that it would have to be something porn related.

I guess that's why I don't work there.

Getting Closer (2)

Master Moose (1243274) | about a year ago | (#43199997)

Oh we are getting closer to being able to cheaply print vinyl records!

My deam of custom 45s in a classic home jukebox inches closer and closer.

Re:Getting Closer (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43200317)

You can already buy a vinyl recorder. Why print something that was designed to be cut?

Re:Getting Closer (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | about a year ago | (#43200445)

Cost and convenience. The “proper gear” with expensive cutter heads that suffer from limited use wear and tear - for what, to me, would ultimately be a novelty. . .

The trial and error alone in getting the right "sound" would see many coasters and placemats quickly created.

Re:Getting Closer (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200621)

But there's no trial and error with 3D printing.... Sigh.... No no, it's just like Star Trek, right?

Re:Getting Closer (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43200799)

You say that like this 30nm 3D printer will be cheap.

Re:Getting Closer (1)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about a year ago | (#43200363)

My deam of custom 45s in a classic home jukebox inches closer and closer.

Mine too - Kimber, S&W, Norinco, Colt Custom Shop... Oh, sorry, wrong 45's...

A nanoscale printer sound really awesome (5, Funny)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#43200015)

But I'm certain I'd lose it.

Re:A nanoscale printer sound really awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200973)

Although a nanoscale phone sounds more and more convenient. Maybe it'll come with the ability to smash the phone against atoms when angry.

Re:A nanoscale printer sound really awesome (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43201117)

No worries there, you know how printers are today. They're cheap, just the refills cost an arm and a leg.

Re:A nanoscale printer sound really awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43202113)

I shouldn't worry - the machine measures 10M cubed, so not much chance of losing it ;-)

Atom Ant Figurines (1)

TuxWithoutPants (2719479) | about a year ago | (#43200065)

Just got real.

This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (4, Interesting)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#43200179)

Right now it can take weeks to make complete microchip with the current fabrication methods. The fabrication size of this printer isn't that great however since most of what is seen in the TFA looks to be around 100 nanometers compared to the 28 nanometers a modern fab can make. However, it would be great to have for rapid prototypes of processors or be used to make devices that fabricate well at large sizes like flash memory.

This printer would work extremely well for MEMS devices since the complex structures such sensors can now just be printed rather than deposited and etched over and over again in a microchip fab.

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200285)

Do you have any idea WHY microchips take so long to build?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NGFhc8R_uO4 [youtube.com]

Even if you can magically make chemicals not react while they patiently wait to be positioned atom by atom, how the hell will you prevent household dust and vibrations from messing up the accuracy? Do we have any idea of what this machine needs as physical support? Like a giant cement floor or vibration-damping structure?

You got that in your living room?

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43200313)

Who said anything about a living room?

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (2)

asm2750 (1124425) | about a year ago | (#43200377)

AC one of my areas of focus in my MSEE degree program was semiconductors and their fabrication. Yes it can take weeks for a microchip to be grown, etched, deposited, cut and packaged (typically around 3 weeks or more depending on how complex the node size and chip is). Also the machines used for exposing the design pattern to the wafer has to be dead on otherwise the chips made on the wafer will not work. A rapid prototyper such as this printer for chips would still need to be in a fab like environment turbo molecular pumps, and all.

Also, I didn't say anything about putting a device such as this in a normal household that would be costly, and a waste of money (it would be pretty cool however if it worked well).

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200491)

OK OK good. So many people have such totally unrealistic expectations about 3D printing that sometimes I worry we still live in the Dark Ages.

Could this thing (reasonably) print a mechanical (2)

postofreason (1305523) | about a year ago | (#43200645)

Could this thing (reasonably) print a mechanical computer a la Babbage? Not a joke question. Would it be possible to power it? Could frictional problem be (reasonably easily) addressed?

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43200869)

Nonsense. E-beam and ion beam lithography are already standard. They're a lot easier to control and use than mask-based lithography and work in a normal lab. They just are no good for mass production, and they are expensive because there isn't a lot of demand for them.

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (1)

SoulNibbler (2194576) | about a year ago | (#43202299)

Well that and they are serial and thus slow. (Yes I know about the parralell methods for both E-beam and Ion beam [also ion-beam litho, not direct write maybe for making nano-imprint-masks]) So the reason they are expensive (they aren't: E-beam is way cheap for the resolution, its just you'd never want to wait for even a single layer of a real device with E-beam litho on a production scale) is that you need lots of them to get anywhere near the throughput you get with photo-lithography.

Sure this technique might be a neat way to make nano-imprint masks, but then again 30nm isn't all that sexy.

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (1)

tsa (15680) | about a year ago | (#43200343)

This thing can only print certain materials so I'm not sure it works for electronics. And the resolution is 30 nm according to the Technology World article. The press release doesn't say anything about the resolution though.

Re:This could be a boon to semiconductors and MEMS (2)

MattskEE (925706) | about a year ago | (#43201369)

This printer would work extremely well for MEMS devices since the complex structures such sensors can now just be printed rather than deposited and etched over and over again in a microchip fab.

I'm not sure how printing MEMs devices serially is going to be faster than parallel mass production on 12" or 18" silicon wafers. Printing them is analogous to laboriously machining a part in a CNC mill compared to stamping in a forge. Photolithography and etching are pretty fast processes. Well, etching can be slow but it can be done very well in parallel to multiple large wafers at once so per-device it's fast. Doing the printing as a prototype for a standard MEMs process production run won't work well since the material properties would be different.

And you still need to connect your MEMs devices to a circuit, so now you have to do a tricky hybrid integration process to pick up your tiny polymer MEMs devices and connect them to a chip and package your now non-planar device. Plus you need to be able to selectively metallize some of your surface for many MEMs applications - not sure how you do that given that stereolithography "printing" works on photohardening polymers not metals.

Right now it can take weeks to make complete microchip with the current fabrication methods. The fabrication size of this printer isn't that great however since most of what is seen in the TFA looks to be around 100 nanometers compared to the 28 nanometers a modern fab can make. However, it would be great to have for rapid prototypes of processors or be used to make devices that fabricate well at large sizes like flash memory.

It's a big leap going from hardening a polymer to printing full complex semiconductor circuits with dielectrics and metal interconnect. Unless you're just thinking of using this stereolithography process to replace the standard mask-based planar photolithography in the foundry, which might be a valid point if the stereolithography is faster or cheaper than electron-beam lithography or ordering a mask of the dimensions that this machine is actually capable of. Right now e-beam lithography can do this but it's slow and expensive.

For something like this to be applied to semiconductor processing another thought would be construction of stamps for nano-imprint lithography. Printing them might be cheaper or faster than the standard techniques of e-beam or optical lithography and etching at least for short runs.

30nm? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43200305)

Can I print a chip with this? Chris Gammell will buy one if it can.

Re:30nm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200653)

No. You can only build a mechanical model of something with a single material. Not unless you can put down different atoms and achieve the needed tolerance.. So at best it would be a mechanical computer of some kind.

A chip consists of a lot of different materials all of them arranged to give certain electrical characteristics - some conducting (metals), some insulating (dielectric e.g. oxides) , some semiconducting (silicon with carefully controlled other atoms inserted) depending on electric fields. They are then interconnected with metals.

Fly on the wall... (1)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#43200311)

Board to engineer: We're excited to see the first demonstration of our new 3D printer! Let's see what you've got...
Engineer to board: I've got good news and not so good news. The good news is the printer is working great, and I've brought several printed objects for you to take a look at.
Board member: What's the bad news? Production costs are higher than estimated?
Engineer: Well, not really. We have a scale problem. Unfortunately, the intern that exported the CAD blueprints to the machinists wasn't used to the software, and the exported design was 1/10th the scale it should have been. We didn't notice the problem until the molds were already created to mass produce the printer.
Board members look at one another in alarm and begin murmuring to one another.
Engineer: However, there's an upside - we can now make really tiny things with ten times the precision! It's a "NANO" printer! You will find sample objects already located on the center of the table. I just hope no one has sneezed.
Board members lean forward, squinting and looking at various objects the size of grains of salt.
Board member: Oh, that's what those things are. I was about to have the cleaning lady fired.
Engineer: I hope this doesn't mean we lose or bonus? We did meet the deadline after all.
Board member, picks up something off the table, then holding fingers together next to his head, rubs them back and forth.
Engineer: What's that supposed to mean?
Board member: I'm just playing the world's smallest violin, which just happened to have been printed on our newest 3D printer.

The empire state building? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200333)

What is this? An empire state building for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read... if they can't even fit inside the building?

This needs to be... at least three times bigger!

Re:The empire state building? (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | about a year ago | (#43201515)

lol +1 for Zoolander reference :)

Spaceship (1)

metalmonkey (1083851) | about a year ago | (#43200513)

When reading the summary I thought - it would take a very long while to print a spaceship nano particle at a time (or micro particle as it turns out).
Only on reading the article did it clarify its a 'model' spaceship.

The SI needs to reclaim its prefixes (1)

rossdee (243626) | about a year ago | (#43200515)

micro is 10 to the minus 6 (1 millionth)
nano is 10 to the minus 9 (1 billionth)

So a nanoscale printer should have a resolution of 1 nanometre
A metre is the standard unit of length
A meter is a device for measuring something eg thermometer

Re:The SI needs to reclaim its prefixes (0)

ooooli (1496283) | about a year ago | (#43200561)

Dear God, you think THAT was a point worth making? That's depressing.

Re:The SI needs to reclaim its prefixes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200861)

Yes, and a regular scale printer should have a resolution of one metre !

Re:The SI needs to reclaim its prefixes (1)

voidphoenix (710468) | about a year ago | (#43201531)

"scale" isn't an SI unit. Nanotechnology is defined as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. 30nm resolution is nanoscale.

Nanascale? Hair witdh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200527)

Think of the possibilities! You will now be able to print yourself a girlfriend, hair and all.

0.003" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200549)

Three lousy thou? I could hit sizes of one thou (0.001") easily when I was first learning to machine (manually).

Re: 0.003" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43200817)

30nm or 300nm? Can't be bothered to RTFA.

The real point (2)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year ago | (#43200841)

This isn't about printing nano scale action figures it's about making nano scale prototype parts. It may not be true nano scale printing as some point out but it's close and still printing on a scale which would require extremely expensive hardware. A few years ago there was no such things as 3D printing and now they are printing at several thousandth scale. How long until they are printing based on individual atoms?

Re:The real point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43202333)

Very long.


Also this [xkcd.com] .

time faint steps (0)

dgysatyds (2868155) | about a year ago | (#43200901)

Guan Xiaoxia's hand, Guan Xiaoxia excitement fainted on the steps ... ... Guan Xiaoxia alone sit at that time faint steps, http://www.louisvuittonoutletiserve.info/ [louisvuitt...serve.info] written to " less than brother " ( the 193rd letter in the maple ).

Okay, that's great. Now scale it. (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43200979)

Because the biggest problem with existing 3d printers, IMO, was lack of precision. Combine this precision with large-scale 3d printing, and you'll be able to print up extremely precise components whose measurements matter almost to the micron.

Re:Okay, that's great. Now scale it. (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43201153)

You're barking up the wrong tree. Getting to this precision isn't the problem with "normal scale" prototyping. That could be accomplished long before the advent of 3D printing, and high precision prototypes are not really the area where 3D printers are used. At least not the consumer grade models that most people know about.

3D printing was and is about is to make the whole deal cheap. To give everyone access to the ability to produce plastic prototypes that doesn't involve a process that resembles playing with very expensive Play-Doh.

This thing is a completely different beast altogether. From the looks of it alone you can easily tell that "cheap" wasn't really one of the corner stones this project rested on. Building really tiny things was.

I'll believe it when I see it... (3, Funny)

mutube (981006) | about a year ago | (#43201243)

...Doh!!!

vinyl records! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43201333)

now we can make them at home!

Whew! That was a close one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43201539)

Good thing nobody ever though of using this apparatus to create lethal viruses and bacteria.

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