Can 3D printers print details in the 1/10 of the micrometer for metals?

  • I'm starting to get familiar with 3D printers. I wish to know if printing details the size of 10-7 m (3.9*10-6 in) is possible these days with metals or any other material.

    If anyone has information or articles as leads, I would really appreciate it.

  • You can get the 0.1 micron (100 nm) resolution with a 2-photon 3D printer, but only in a polymer resin. Nanoscribe, in Germany, pioneered this technology, see Mechanical Microstructures.

    Their commercial printer, the Photonic Professional GT, is about $350,000 US with software and accessories. There is some work being done to replicate the 3D printed polymer in metal using electroless plating or ALD (atomic layer deposition). Other techniques are in development.

    None of the direct metal 3D printing processes come close to your 0.1 micron resolution, although the field is rapidly evolving. Only a couple of years ago, direct metal 3D printing was all based on powder bed fusion. Now binder jet technology as been adapted to metals and, very recently, Xjet has developed a nanoparticle 3D printer. It prints "ink" composed of metal or ceramic nanoparticles suspended in a liquid. The minimum layer thickness is 1 to 2 microns. They have not released XY resolution data yet.

    A good overall reference for the various 3D printing techniques (including Xjet, but not Nanoscribe) can be found at Explaining The Future - 3D Printing.

  • There's atom-based-printing 3D printers that only some universities have.

    There aren't other 3D printers that can get even 0.001 mm precision, you want 0.0001 mm, that's pretty dicey. Just breathing on the device will make it shift a layer. Just walking on the floor next to such a device would kill it.

    This one works with resins though, Ultra-High Resolution 3D Printing at the Micro-Scale with Nanoscribe.

    The 'atom-based-printing' you're referring to I believe is a scanning tunneling microscope, which isn't a printer. I suppose the argument could be made that it could be used to build an object, however it isn't the primary role of the technology.

    @AlucardPawpad can you please provide links or brand names of the printers you're referring to?

    The 'atom-based-printing" is based on 2-photon polymerization and is, indeed, a 3D printing process--see my answer below. However, many of the printed structures are so small that they can only be viewed with an SEM (scanning electron microscope).

  • There are no 3D printers (that I'm aware of) that can do 0.0001 millimeters, hobbyist or industrial, plastic or metal. For that matter I think you'll be hard pressed to find a CNC mill with that type of tolerances.


    +1 Closest thing to it would be some sort of CNC grinder, but then you're limited in size and shape you can machine.

  • Today, only SLA/DLP will give features of that size (if even these technologies do), and I am unaware of anyone using these technologies to print with metals today.

    They don't give features of that size. Form 2 adverises a laser spot size of 140um; 1000x bigger than asked in this question. It is impossible to print in metal with SLA/DLP because there do not exist metals that "cure" from a liquid into a solid state when exposed to light.

    Thank you for the info, what would be the smallest order of magnitude we can print today with metals, any info on this subject would be helpful.

License under CC-BY-SA with attribution

Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM