German company 3D MicroPrint has developed technology to make nanoscale metal components using micro laser sintering – a form of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it is more commonly known.
The tiny pieces – smaller than a matchstick or coin – are formed in layers from metal powder using a precision laser controlled through digital technology. The advantage of this technology is that complex structures can be created on a very small scale, which would be difficult to achieve through conventional techniques. The option for individualisation and moveable parts is also available.
The company cites a rise in the demand for 3D-printed parts on this scale, and forsees the technology being adopted by automotive and medical industries in particular. It would also be suitable for use in products with complex mechanisms, such as watches.
For more on the future of these technologies and their applications, see 3D Printing Outlook 2014. For more on how similar advancements are changing the face of the watch industry, see Watching the Wrist.