Physicists at Leiden University in the Netherlands have 3D printed what could be the world’s smallest boat, a test object known as Benchy (via Gizmodo). At 30 microns long, it’s a third smaller than the thickness of a human hair and about six times larger than a bacteria cell. It’s not only small but surprisingly detailed, with an open cockpit that features some tricky geometry. The goal is to understand how “microswimmers” like bacteria and sperm move through liquids.
To 3D print an object that small, the team used a commercial Nanoscribe 3D microprinter using a process known as 2PP (two-photon polymerization), as shown in the manufacturer’s video below. The 3D prints are created inside droplets with material that hardens at the focal point of extremely accurate lasers.