The smallest boat in the world printed in 3D
Researchers at Leiden University have 3D-printed the world’s smallest boat – a 30-micron copy of the Benchy tugboat, a popular 3D printer test object.
This boat is so small that it could float on the inside of a human hair.
The 3D printed boat is part of an exploration of microscopic swimmers, organisms or microscopic objects that can move through liquids. Natural examples of micro swimmers are bacteria and sperm.
This little Benchy propels himself using some platinum that reacts with hydrogen peroxide.
Most interesting is how they were able to print the cabin of the little boat, an open space that requires a lot of geometric tricks to build.
“A laser is focused into a drop that hardens locally at the laser’s focal point,” said researcher Daniela Kraft. “By moving the laser through the drop in a controlled way, we can write the swimmer shape we want.”
“Because the printing is done inside the blob, and we are printing layer by layer, we can keep the space open,” she said.
Why did they print a little boat for swimming? Because it was fun!
“3D Benchy is a framework that has been designed to test macroscopic 3D printers because it has several challenging characteristics, and it was natural to test it at the micrometer scale as well,” Kraft said. “Plus, making a boat the size of a swimming micrometer is fun.”
Her research work is entitled “Colloidal Micro Swimmers 3D Printed with Catalytic Propulsion”