Micro 3D printing: When tiny parts mean big impact

BY John Kawola

We are breaking down cost and innovation barriers.

Most conversations around additive manufacturing have focused on printing larger and larger parts, yet many of the world’s products are actually getting smaller and smaller. Think of all the tiny parts that are nestled into the handheld electronics we use on a daily basis, for example, or within the devices that make new forms of microscopic exploration and implantation possible in the medical field.

We call this “miniaturization”—the trend to manufacture smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products, medical devices, and much more. While the parts themselves are small, the amount of time, money and effort it takes to design, prototype and test them is actually quite large. The smaller the part, the greater the need for accuracy and precision, and traditionally, the harder that is for manufacturers to achieve.

Until recently, these tiny parts were thought of as out-of-reach for additive manufacturing due to these challenging requirements, but new technological advancements have made the promise of microscale 3D printing a reality—enabling manufacturers to print industrial-quality parts down to two microns—and it’s set to make a big impact on the industry moving forward.