The Pursuit of Intelligent Machines – Mass Customization & 3D Printing

New 3D technology allows for precision printing on a nanoscale. In a process called two-photon lithography, tiny structures on a nanometer scale can be printed. Using a liquid resin hardened by a laser beam, the printer can create structures as little as a hundred nanometers in width. The big breakthrough by the materials science team at the Vienna University of Technology is not just about the precision of the 3D printing but also about the speed of the device. Although the scale is nano the device can lay down resin at a rate of 5 meters per second.

Technical University of Vienna has developed a 3D laser printer capable of nanoscale printing. The object in this picture is a mere 285 nanometers. Source: Vienna University of Technology

When the resin is exposed to the laser light it becomes solid. Unlike conventional 3D printers that create models one layer at a time, the technology developed at the University can print solid material anywhere in the design.

What are the applications for this type of 3D printing? Here are just a few:

  1. Organic Tissue – Creating scaffoldings for living cells to attach to in growing organs and human tissue for transplant and laboratory study.
  2. Medical Devices – nano-sized technologies for diagnosis and repair related to human diseases
  3. Electronic Devices – micro level components for semiconductors and chips
  4. Optics – nano-sized lenses for photonics and lasers

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...


  • Javier

    Three questions with regards to 3D printing:

    Who or what companies in Canada are doing this?

    How much business model legs does this have? Here or in the USA?

    How do I or anybody else who may be interested get involved ?

    • lenrosen4

      Hi Javier,

      Check out and for some current 3D printing technology solutions. For Canadian sources try
      My first exposure to 3D printing happened five years ago. I was attending a construction materials conference and came across a printing company doing architectural modelling. I was a consultant to a company doing aerial photography and LIDAR and got them to use the imaging to do 3D urban landscape models.

      To get involved with 3D printing you should choose an industry vertical where modelling and prototyping is a requirement of the design or pre-production process. Biomedicine represents a future subject area for 3D using biological materials to construct organs by laying down living cells or an inert matrix to act as scaffolding for growing an organ.