World’s Smallest Ship: 3D Printed Microboat’s Length Is 1/3 the Thickness of a Hair

3D Printed Microboat

3DBenchy. Credit: Leiden University

From bow to stern, this little boat measures 30 micrometers, about a third of the thickness of a hair. It has been 3D-printed by Leiden physicists Rachel Doherty, Daniela Kraft, and colleagues.

The image was made using an electron microscope and can be found in their article about 3D printing synthetic microswimmers in the scientific journal Soft Matter.


Kraft’s research group researches microswimmers, small particles moving in fluids like water, that can be followed using a microscope. One of their goals is understanding biological microswimmers, such as bacteria.

Most research of this type is carried out on sphere shaped particles, but 3D printing offers new possibilities, as the researchers show in this article. They also printed spiral shaped particles, which rotate along while they are propelled through water.


The microboat doesn’t have a propellor. 3DBenchy is a standard 3D design for testing 3D-printers. The group’s new Nanoscribe Photonic Professional printer has passed this test with flying colors, while establishing a new record building the smallest ship on Earth (which is even able to set sail in water).

Reference: “Catalytically propelled 3D printed colloidal microswimmers” by Rachel P. Doherty, Thijs Varkevisser, Margot Teunisse, Jonas Hoecht, Stefania Ketzetzi, Samia Ouhajji and Daniela J. Kraft, 12 October 2020, Soft Matter.DOI: 10.1039/D0SM01320J

Source: SciTechDaily