Dec 17, 2015 | By Alec

3D printed selfies are big right now and could be one of the most accessible ways to introduce people to the basic concept of 3D printing technology. However, a team of Swiss scientists has put an unusual twist on the concept as part of a new and intriguing Kickstarter campaign. Scrona, a startup by researchers from ETH Zurich, is actually a specialist in 3D inkjet technology, and have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for a portable microscope that relies on your smartphone and fits in your wallet. As part of that Kickstarter attempt, you can actually get a unique 3D nanoprinted image of yourself (or of whatever you want), which is about as big as a grain of salt and can only be visible under a microscope.

It might sound a bit strange, but that 3D nanoprinted selfie technology is actually what the scientists are specialized in. They were even recently awarded a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, for a making the world’s smallest color picture – 3D printed in quantum dots. The final picture is about as thick as a hair at 0.0092 square millimeters. The picture itself can be seen above, and is of clown fishes swimming with sea anemones, a fantastic scientific achievement and only visible under a special microscope.

This 3D printing technology doesn’t use traditional inks, but QDs (quantum dots), which are semiconducting nanoparticles that emit a distinct color of light. With their technology, these dots can be manipulated to assume different colors and when 3D printed with perfect precision, images can be formed. The resolution? 25,000 dots per inch, or DPI – about ten times more detailed than the top of the range laser printer. The real achievement here, the researchers say, is the technology to control the placement of each QD with such precision in their 3D nanoprinting setup.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with the µPeek Kickstarter campaign? Well the startup Scrona was founded by the scientists behind this 3D nanoprinting concept to commercialize their novel 3D inkjet technology. “To showcase the printed nanoscale features, we needed a portable, yet powerful microscope. This simply didn’t exist at the time… and triggered the conception of µPeek,” they explain. “To our great satisfaction, we found that early prototypes of µPeek not only solved our problems, but also generated overwhelming interest and fascination. We suddenly realized how cool our creation really was! The entrepreneurial mindset took its own course. We decided to improve this device and transform it into a stand-alone product.”

And that is essentially what this Kickstarter is all about. “µPeek is a sleek gadget that lets users perform microscopy with their smartphones in an equally abundant and artistic way as they do photography. µPeek is the first smartphone microscope that combines the functionality of a full-fledged microscope with pleasing aesthetics, true everyday portability and user-friendly operation via an Android/iOS App,” they say of it. Almost as small as a credit card, it is packed with technology, including a motorized 4-element lens and illumination optics that, combined with a smartphone app, put the powers of microscopy at your disposal. Perfect for outdoor activities or for presentations, and it perfectly attaches to your smartphone with a special adhesive that doesn’t leave residues.

While this ‘Swiss army knife of microscopes’ is certainly fascinating (and can be yours with a pledge of just $135 USD), we are obviously most interested about this 3D printed microselfie. While it is part of the more expensive perk of $600, it is definitely intriguing. “Fresh from the lab and only here on Kickstarter you can now send your personal image into the realm of the microcosm,” they explain. “Using a novel 3D nanoprinting technology we will create what even upscale computer chip fabrication processes wouldn’t realize. Your image will be condensed to the size of a single grain of salt, made of pure gold or fluorescent nanoparticles. Only visible as a blinking dot to the naked eye, you can use your µPeek to fully reveal the images and seriously impress your friends.”

While not exactly a cheap selfie, it is a very remarkable way to remember a special event like a wedding or a birth. How many people can boast they have a wedding photo especially 3D printed in gold nanoparticles at the highest possible resolution in the world? For more information about the crowdfunding campaign, the µPeek and getting the most impressive selfie ever, go to Kickstarter here.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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