Researchers from the University of Stuttgart built a three-lens micro-camera using 3D printing and fixed it onto the tip of an optical fibre (the width of two hairs).
The engineers told in the journal Nature Photonics that this technology could be used to study the inside of the human body as minimally- intrusive endoscopes. In addition to this, it could also be used in virtually invisible security monitors, or mini-robots with “autonomous vision”.
3D printing is also called additive manufacturing as it creates three dimensional objects by adding layer after layer of materials such as plastic, metal or ceramic.
Despite the fact that the team believed that its 3D printing method might signify “a paradigm shift”, it said that lenses cannot currently be made small enough for key uses in the medical field due to manufacturing limitations.
The researchers also informed; it took only a few hours to design, manufacture and test the tiny eye, which yielded “high optical performances and tremendous compactness.”
The compound lens is only 100 micrometres (0.1 millimetres) wide, and 120 micrometres along with its casing. It is capable of focusing on images from a distance of 3.0mm and then transmit them through the optical fibre of length 1.7 metre to which it is attached.
According to the team, the “imaging system” fits comfortably inside a standard syringe needle and hence letting it transfer into a human organ, or even the brain.
“Endoscopic applications will allow for non-invasive and non-destructive examination of small objects in the medical, as well as the industrial sector.”
Similar to the ones deployed in digital cameras, the compound lens can also be printed onto image sensor other than optical fibres.