Researchers 3D-print glass using new method

"[The] technology could be used, for instance, to make small, complex structures out of a large number of very small optical components of different orientations," said researcher Bastian Rapp.
By Brooks Hays   |   April 21, 2017 at 12:15 PM

April 21 (UPI) -- Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, have developed a method for 3D-printing with glass.

The 3D printer is supplied with a novel mixture of high-purity quartz glass nanoparticles and a small amount of liquid polymer, which works as a binding agent. Scientists use stereolithography to cure the printed product with light, before washing out any remaining liquid in a solution bath. Any polymer that remains trapped in the glass is melted away during a final heating stage.

"The shape initially resembles that of a pound cake; it is still unstable, and therefore the glass is sintered in a final step, i.e. heated so that the glass particles are fused," Bastian E. Rapp, a mechanical engineer at KIT, said in a news release.

Previous attempts to 3D-print with melted glass yielded porous structures with a rough surface. The new method avoids such problems. Scientists were able to construct a variety of complex structures using the new 3D-printing technique.

Measurements of the final product suggests the glass features intricate microstructures. Researchers observed glass structures measuring just a few micrometers.

"[The] technology could be used, for instance, to make small, complex structures out of a large number of very small optical components of different orientations," Rapp explained.

Researchers believe the method could be used to produce special lenses for a variety of optical applications.

Rapp and his colleagues detailed their success in the journal Nature.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more news from UPI.com
Related UPI Stories
share with facebook
share with twitter
Trending Stories