This 3D-printed camera is smaller than a grain of salt and could be injected into your body


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Not only is getting a camera into the human body a very invasive experience, it's not always possible when it comes to examining certain areas. But researchers at the University of Stuttgart in Germany have developed a camera so tiny it can be injected into a person using a syringe.

It took Timo Gissibl, Simon Thiele, Alois Herkommer, and Harald Giessen “a few hours to design, manufacture and test” the 3D-printed three-lens camera that measures an incredible 100 micrometers (0.004 inches) across, smaller than a grain of salt.

The camera, which can focus on images from a distance of 3mm, currently needs to be tethered to a 1.7 meter (5.5 foot) length of optical fiber. Its minute dimensions mean it could be injected directly into human organs, even the brain - though it still needs more testing and the green light from regulators.

Manufacturing the camera involves blasting a femtosecond laser into a light-sensitive liquid that hardens at the absorption of each pulse. Any unexposed material is then washed away with a solvent, leaving the lens element behind. The process also allows unconventional lens shapes to be printed for specific purposes.

"Endoscopic applications will allow for non-invasive and non-destructive examination of small objects in the medical as well as the industrial sector," the team write.

Away from medical applications, the cameras can be used to create miniature illumination systems, be placed into tiny robots and drones, and enable the creation of smaller sensors for autonomous vehicles. There’s also the numerous, and scary, surveillance possibilities they offer.

The researchers believe that the new technique could be a game changer for optics manufacturing. "The time from the idea, the optics design, a CAD model, to the finished, 3D-printed micro-objectives is going to be less than a day," says Professor Harald Giessen, from the University of Stuttgart's 4th Physics Institute. "We are going to open potentials just like computer-aided design and computer-integrated manufacturing did in mechanical engineering a few years ago."

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Uncle Al

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Sounds like the video version of "Fantastic Voyge", the 1966 movie about miniaturizing a sub full of specialists that went into a mans body to clear away a brain blockage. You know, come to think of it, I am surprised that Spielberg hasn't remade this movie. With all the special effects work he does, it would be incredible. Of course the old 1966 version was pretty darn impressive for it's day too. This would also be a big improvement on that horse pill sized camera I had to swallow for the upper and lower GI-Track inspection I did last year. It was impressive, but certainly time consuming wearing that web gear with all the batteries and storage device to capture all those transmitted pictures .....
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That fly's face looks terrified of the upcoming endoscopy that will be performed on it.