A team of four researchers from the University of Stuttgart has created a micro-camera that has a diameter and height of only 125 μm and is small enough to be injected into the human body using a syringe needle.

The micro-camera was designed and put together using 3D printing technology and ultrashort laser pulses in combination with optical photoresists.

Camera has applications in medicine, industry

The result is a camera barely bigger than the diameter of a human hair, which can be used for covert surveillance devices, non-intrusive inspections of industrial equipment, and non-invasive medical procedures.

The camera can acquire video information and relay it back to a data recording device via an optical fiber cable. The camera can transmit data over a 1.7 meters cable and can focus on objects from a distance of 3 millimeters.

Because the camera is created using 3D printing technology, researchers say the camera can be printed on top of devices that may want to use it, such as sensors, cables, or CMOS chip boards.

Researchers claim that this building process is perfect for the construction of novel and extremely small endoscopes that can reach previously prohibited areas, such as the human brain.

Mass-producing the micro-camera is an economical possibility

“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,” said Professor Harald Giessen, one of the four researchers. “We are going to open potentials just like computer-aided design and computer-integrated manufacturing did in mechanical engineering a few years ago.”

Furthermore, this manufacturing technique is also much faster than classic micro-camera assembly procedures, which could make the camera a commercial success, if high image resolutions can be achieved.

The four researchers are Timo Gissibl, Simon Thiele, Alois Herkommer, and Harald Giessen.

Micro-camera (small item) next to multi-lens micro-camera (larger item)

Micro-camera (small item) next to multi-lens micro-camera (larger item)

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