The smallest toy spinner in the world is no bigger than a human hair


Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have taken three-dimensional printing to the next level. Through a novel technique, they were able to print the smallest puzzle swath in the world. It can easily fit within the width of a human hair, virtually invisible to the naked eye.

  The smallest rotating toy in the world, seen under a microscope. Image through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The smallest toy windrower in the world, seen here through a microscope. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The computer-aided design of the spinner fidget was first divided into several digital layers. Then, a drop of a special liquid is added to a piece of silicon wafer and then loaded into a nano-writing machine. This device is somewhat similar to a 3D printer. However, unlike a 3D printer, liquid plastic emanates from a nozzle, using a laser to rake its way through the liquid and create a pattern, then converting the liquid into a solid. The laser shapes the liquid only at its most concentrated and strongest point known as the focal point, allowing researchers to reach a level of dazzling precision.

Beyond the madness of the fidget spinner, ORNL researchers have demonstrated more serious applications, including a technique that could be used to make microsearers and tetrapod devices that deliver drugs accurately in the human body.

"We felt it would be [the fidget spinner] an interesting demonstration for young people who may not know that the federal government maintains these users throughout the country," said Dr. Adam Rondinone, senior scientist at ORN.

Next, the team intends to design an interactive version of the microscopic imitator for the Itinerant Science Fair of ORNL.

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