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Tiny Optical Illusion

3D Printing Impossible Object Optical Illusions as Small as Red Blood Cells

Picture of Hanna Watkin
by Hanna Watkin
Dec 20, 2018

A Japanese mathematical scientist at Meiji University used Cytosurge's FluidFM 3D printing technology to create "Impossible Objects", which trick the mind, as small as the size of a red blood cell.

Impossible drawings are optical illusions which trick the mind into thinking that 2D images are 3D objects. Impossible Objects, however, are rigid 3D structures which trick the mind into seeing a different shape when viewed at different perspectives.

Already pretty cool, a Japanese mathematical scientist at Meiji University wanted to take this concept one step further. Professor Kokichi Sugihara wanted to 3D print these objects to see whether they would still work, even when impossibly small.

So, he combined micro 3D printing technology and a 3D design to create multiple metallic Impossible Objects. The design was printed in solid copped in three sizes. These were 0.1-mm-diameter, 0.03-mm-diameter and 0.01-mm-diameter – the latter being comparable to the size of a red blood cell.

Better yet, Sugihara found that the 3D printed Impossible Objects have the same illusion of impossibility. Check out the results in the video below:

3D Printing Sugihara’s Impossible Objects

Sugihara’s smallest 3D Impossible Object was 3D printed on Cytosurge’s FluidFM 3D printing technology. Cytosurge is a spin-off of ETH, founded in 2009. The company develops, manufactures and distributes state-of-the-art nanotechnology solutions.

Cytosurge’s FluidFM 3D printing technology was invented at ETH Zurich and was perfect for Sugihara’s project as it prints solid metal structures at the sub-millimeter scale.

The technology works by using a pipette with a tiny 300 nanometer-wide opening “to do local electrodeposition of metals”. The FluidFM nanopipette is hollow and brought close to a conductive surface.

This pipette then dispenses a metal ion, in this case, copper, which contains liquid. The copper ions are reduced to solid atoms by a negative potential applied to the surface. These atoms deposit below the pipette opening.

Finally, the gap between surface and pipette is filled and the pipette moves onto the next position. This process of deposition is repeated until a 3D object is created.

Sugihara’s result is a tiny Impossible Object which has to be viewed “at the very high resolution of an electron microscope.” Even when viewing the objects this way, the Impossible Object changes with your viewing perspective.

Source: Cytosurge Press Release 

Impossible Objects

License: The text of "3D Printing Impossible Object Optical Illusions as Small as Red Blood Cells" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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