World’s Smallest 3-D Printer Is a Factory in the Home

This milk-carton size 3-D printer makes the process accessible to all.
This milk-carton size 3-D printer makes the process accessible to all. (Image credit: The Vienna Universtiy of Technology)

At-home 3-D printing could revolutionize shopping by allowing users to download and print anything from earrings to replacement machine parts to silverware. Unfortunately, most 3-D printers remain too large and too expensive for private use. The new milk carton-size printer developed by the Vienna University of Technology may finally change that by providing rapid fabrication in the small size and low price needed by the home consumer.

The printer itself weighs a little over three pounds and costs 1,200 Euros ($1,700).

“We will continue to reduce the size of the printer, and the price will definitely decrease too, if it is produced in large quantities,” said Klaus Stadlmann, one of its creators.

According to the university, the objects are printed with a special type of resin that “hardens precisely where it is illuminated with intense beams of light. Layer for layer, the synthetic resin is irradiated at exactly the right spots. When one layer hardens, the next layer can be attached to it, until the object is completed.”

This enables the smaller printer to make much more intricate interior designs than larger 3-D printers, which rely on casting techniques. This process also makes it possible to make individually adjusted pieces.

The individual layers hardened by the light beams are just one- twentieth of a millimeter thick, which makes them perfect for constructing items such as the parts for hearing aids, a process that requires extraordinary precision.

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