Art For Ants: Nanosculptures So Small You Can't See Them
It is being called the tiniest artwork depicting the human form ever created. The figures the artist created were sculpted using a special 3D printing process and can only viewed with an electron microscope.
Artist Jonty Hurwitz is really a minimalist. His nano-sculptures, one being only 20 x 80 x 100 microns, could comfortably fit on a single hair or in the eye of a needle. They are so tiny that a jeweler’s scope or 400x magnification microscope would leave you wholly unsatisfied. If you’re not busy, just sit where you are for 6 hours. In that time, your fingernails will have gained more mass than one of his sculptures.
The process of artistic creation was far from a lone artist in his studio with clay and sculpting tools. Hurwitz had to recruit 15 specialists to help realize his vision. It started with models in a warehouse surrounded by a dome of over 200 precisely positioned cameras to gather all the data needed from his muses. That was the easy part because the next 10 months were spent in front of a computer creating virtual models that had to be designed, sculpted and rendered into what he calls “digital clay”. Only then could the task of actually creating his little masterpieces begin.
This final step used 3D printing or additive manufacturing to painstakingly build up his “sculptures”. The specific technique used is called multi-photon lithography. This is similar to what most of us have experienced at a dentist’s office. Sometimes dentists shine UV light onto a bonding material to harden it like a quick-drying glue. To achieve the incredible precision and resolution required for nano-sculptures, this process uses blasts from a very high-powered near-infrared laser. If the laser is focused tightly enough, it can harden a precisely targeted point within a polymer medium. Once completed, a computer controls the laser to move minutely to harden the next spot. These ultra-tiny hardened grains are called Voxels which are essentially 3 dimensional pixels that make up the final structure.
So take a gander at these lovely lilliputian labors of love. If you think you’ll ever see them you’re wrong on two counts. First, they’re too small to see (duh) and second, some bozo lost all of them because they’re so damn small (I’m serious).
Image Credit: Jonty Hurwitz