Cardiff University scientists say they’ve developed precision machinery so sophisticated it can drill a hole narrower than a human hair.

The experts at the university’s manufacturing engineering center say they are drilling holes as small as 22 microns (0.022mm) in stainless steel and other materials. Such precision signals a major advance in mechanical engineering and has potentially major benefits in medical and electronic engineering.

A human hair varies between 80 microns to 50 microns in thickness.

The holes we are now drilling in Cardiff with the electro-discharge machining process could be the smallest in the world, said the center’s marketing director Frank Marsh. The standard rods available commercially are capable of making holes of 150 microns. Although lasers are able to make small holes, (they) are of poorer quality when compared to the EDM process. Lasers make holes that taper, whereas EDM makes parallel or vertical holes.

The scientists say they hope to acquire new nanotechnology equipment next year that will enable them to make even smaller holes and add surface materials of tiny thicknesses to finish optical, medical and other components.

More here.