Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have taken 3-D printing to the next level. Through a novel technique, they were able to print the world’s smallest fidget spinner. It can easily fit within the width of a human hair — virtually invisible to the naked eye.

The world’s smallest fidget spinner as seen under a microscope. Image via Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The world’s smallest fidget spinner, seen here through a microscope. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The computer-aided design of the fidget spinner was first sliced into multiple digital layers. Then just one drop of a special liquid is added to a piece of silicon wafer and then loaded into a nanoscribe machine. This device is somewhat similar to a 3D printer. However, unlike a 3D printer, it oozes liquid plastic from a nozzle, using a laser to raster its way through the liquid and create a pattern, then turning the liquid into a solid. The laser shapes the liquid only in its strongest, most concentrated point known as the focal point, allowing the researchers to achieve a stunning level of precision.

Beyond the fidget spinner craze, the ORNL researchers have demonstrated more serious applications, including a technique that could be used to fabricate microswimmers and tetrapod devices that precisely deliver drugs into the human body.

“We felt like it [the fidget spinner] would be an interesting demonstration for younger people who may not know that the federal government maintains these user facilities around the country,” said Dr. Adam Rondinone, a senior staff scientist at ORN.


Next, the team intends to devise an interactive version of the microscopic fidget spinner for the ORNL Traveling Science Fair.

Pseudoscience is threatening our society.
We had to do something about it
Subscribe to our science newsletter
...and get our new book for FREE
Join 50,000+ subscribers vaccinated against pseudoscience
Download NOW
By subscribing you agree to our Privacy Policy. Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.