Nanoprined sculptures by artist Jonty Hurwitz. via cosmos magazine
Technology has long supplied artists with tools they can use to express themselves – even at times giving birth to new art forms. South African artist, engineer and entrepreneur Jonty Hurwitz has used his technical skills to create a form unlike any seen before – and one that can’t even be seen with the naked eye. Hurwitz is the creator of the nanosculpture – a miniscule model of a human the full detail of which can only be observed with a powerful scanning electron microscope.
“Trust”, a nanosculpture of the female figure, is the smallest creation of the human form ever made. It measures about 80 x 100 x 20 micrometres. Just how tiny that is can be seen in the image of the eye of a needle above, but to compare, a human hair is about 100 micrometres thick.
It took Hurwitz, who now lives in England, 10 months to produce his tiny artworks through a complex production process. Human models were photographed by 250 cameras rigged up inside a warehouse in Sussex using a technique known as photogrammetry. Then he moved from lab to lab with each stage of development, until the imperceptibly small figures were ready to be made.
A chamber within the printer is filled with light-sensitive polymer. This is zapped with near infrared radiation (NIR) focussed through a microscope. The process solidifies the polymer at one very small focal point, known a 3D pixel or voxel. The nanosculpture is created using a computer-controlled process that proceeds very slowly, assembling each voxel and then each layer, almost like molding digital clay.