Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Horton Sees a Who

We all hear about the agile Maker Movement and its ever cheaper means of making ever more diverse objects using shareware to turn bits into atoms shaped into things we can hold, admire and hopefully use.  As if that weren’t exciting enough, now mankind has the ability to turn bits into atoms that shape very small objects – on the microscopic scale – fast!

The German spinout of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Nanoscribe announced that it can precisely make objects on a scale of 0.3 mm with features as small as 30 nanometers.  The key to effectively and quickly producing on this tiny scale is a technique called two-photon polymerization finely deflecting laser beam with mirrors, and piezoelectric positioning of the stage holding the part being made.

Although researchers have been able to use printing techniques to make microscopic objects such quantum dots for imaging of cells, microfluidic platforms to analyze ultra-small amounts of biologic materials, and other microstructures for more than a decade, these processes have been slow to date.

This new technology holds promise for custom MEMS, or micro-electro-mechanical systems which have enabled accelerometers for our smart phones and vehicles, personalized medicine delivery systems, tissue engineering and other sophisticated applications for us to marvel at tomorrow.  Manufacturers of everyday electronics or medical devices will someday be able to “print” tiny custom parts cheaply to conform to the individual needs of a customer or patient.  As additive manufacturing technologies become more reliable and the materials readily available, the MEP network will be positioned to bring them into Main Street manufacturers.

You can read more about potential applications this breakthrough may have in a recent MIT Technology Review article.

About the author

Clara Asmail

Clara Asmail develops new approaches to support small R&D and manufacturing businesses with resources to commercialize technologies. Her 25+ year career at NIST includes managing the SBIR Program and...

Related posts


Makers will gather at the Design For Manufacturing Summit, in Brooklyn, NY, March 21st. ( The DFM Summits bring together designers, makers, digital entrepreneurs, product developers and engineers for a leaner, decentralized manufacturing ecosystem. Additive manufacturing and flexible manufacturing will be among the topics discussed.
These developments seem truly revolutionary in terms of implications for how things will be made in the very near future--very small things performing big functions. very effective article.

Add new comment

  • This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions. Image CAPTCHA
    Enter the characters shown in the image.
Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as long as they are appropriate for a public, family friendly website, are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, misleading or false information/accusations or promote specific commercial products, services or organizations. Posts that violate our comment policy will not be posted.