The tiny spaceship in the video above was built using a microscale 3-D printer. At 125 micrometers long, the craft is about the length of a dust mite, and it took less than 50 seconds to produce. The super-fast, high-resolution printer that made the spaceship was introduced this week at the Photonics West fair by Nanoscribe GmbH, a company based in Germany that specializes in nanophotonics and 3-D laser lithography.
The printer crafted the spaceship using two-photon polymerization, in which ultra-short laser pulses activate photosensitive building materials. Afterward, the ship — based on a Hellcat fighter from the Wing Commander Saga — was inspected using an electron microscope. While the spacecraft can’t fly, thereby limiting its usefulness for space exploration (unlike, say, 3-D printed astrofood), the technology’s other tiny productsinclude biological scaffolds, ultralight metamaterials, and channels that have found homes in biological research, photonics, and microfluidics.
Next step? We’d love to watch this thing launch into space, piloted by an army of microbes.