“We had more of these”, explained the representative from Old World Labs, holding up a small Perspex box containing what appeared to be fuzzy grains of salt, “but they’re easy to lose.”
Peering closely into the box, we realised that the specks inside were dizzyingly small mechanical gears.
Rather than extruding molten plastic like the other 3D printers at CES, OWL’s machines use tightly focused laser beams to draw on the surface of some liquid resin. The light hardens a layer of resin one ten-thousandth of a millimetre thick. As with more basic printers, the object is then built up, layer by layer.
Your Makerbot prints might need a bit of sanding to look smooth and finished, but products from the OWL MC-1 and MC-2 can actually be smaller than sand grains. If your pet ant needs a new monocle and you can't get to Ant Monocles R Us, this is the printer for you.
Okay, so you’re unlikely to need an OWL printer for your desktop tinkering, but it’s interesting to see the sort of technology that will one day trickle down to everyday devices, and the printers themselves have a pleasingly sci-fi design. Unfortunately the cost is also from the future – “six figures”, said the OWL man we spoke to – so they’re mainly being leased to researchers at large research organisations, but if you're rich and you want a new hat for your amoeba, visit oldworldlabs.com.
READ MORE: All the biggest stories from CES 2015