Researchers from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences created the smallest fidget spinner in the world using a 3D printer. This tiny toy stands at the tenth part of a millimeter, and officially measures at 100 microns.
The device which was used to print the fidget spinner is called a nanoscribe machine. It can be used for other applications related to nanotechnology as well. For example, it is capable of directing a focused laser beam onto a liquid and microscopically transform it into a solid, which becomes what is known as a microfluidic device.
With this kind of technology, scientists and researchers are able to build items that allow them to create microscale devices which are fully functional as well as fully mobile components.
Designing is the first step of the process. The design is first created on a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program. The digital design is then cut up into electronic slices, just like how it i done in 3D printing. The digital layers are then stacked one on top of the other, and will therefore form the final product.
Source: YouTube, ORNL
Once the design is completed, a drop of special liquid is applied to a tiny amount of silicon water, and will be then added inside the nanoscribe machine. After this, the beam of laser that is assigned to transform the liquid into a microfluidic device is directed at its focal point. This is the point of maximum density and concentration of the substance, which is the only point where the laser can be focused in order to convert the substance successfully.
The process is very similar to the 3D printing machine’s process in creating solid items. The machine makes use of a “squirt nozzle” which moves in 3 dimensions to be able to build the design that has been fed layer by layer. In comparison, the laser beam that the nanoscribe machine is equipped slashes around the substance, which builds a very thin and sensitive pattern in accordance to the original digital file which is built on the CAD program. Slowly, this turns the liquid into a solid object.