A team of scientists from the University of Twente in The Netherlands has discovered a way to 3D print structures of copper and gold, by stacking microscopically small metal droplets. These droplets are made by melting a thin metal film using a pulsed laser. They say that this technology would allow manufacturing of entirely new devices and components.

The team used laser light to melt copper and gold into droplets and deposited them in a controlled manner. A pulsed laser focused on a thin metal film locally melts the metal and and deforms it into a flying drop, which the researchers carefully positioned onto a substrate. By repeating the process numerous times, a 3D structure is made.

They were able to form micro-pillars to a height of 2 millimeters with a diameter of 5 micrometers. They also printed vertical electrodes in a cavity, as well as lines of copper.

The researchers say that virtually any shape can be printed by smartly choosing the location of the drop impact.