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3D Printing Possible With Glass For The First Time

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3D Printing Possible With Glass For The First Time
3D Printing Possible With Glass For The First Time

Video: 3D Printing Possible With Glass For The First Time

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Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a process for using glass for 3D printing for the first time. Previously common materials for 3D printing were mainly plastic and metal. The researchers will be presenting the process at the KIT stand at the Hanover Fair.

An interdisciplinary team at KIT around the mechanical engineer Dr. Bastian E. Rapp developed the process in which nanoparticles of high-purity quartz glass are mixed with a small amount of liquid plastic. They allow this mixture to harden at certain points using light - using stereolithography. The material that remains liquid is washed out in a solvent bath, leaving only the desired, hardened structure. The plastic still mixed into this glass structure is then removed by heating.

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Bake glass like cake

“The shape initially resembles a sand cake,” explains Rapp. "Although it is shaped, it is unstable, which is why the glass is sintered in a final step." During sintering, the glass is heated to such an extent that the glass particles fuse together.

The use of glass opens up numerous new opportunities: In optics, data transmission or biotechnology, the transparent, heat-resistant and acid-resistant material is in demand and small, filigree parts can be printed using additive manufacturing. Under the title "Three-Dimensional Printing of Transparent Fused Silica Glass", the scientists present the process in the specialist publication Nature.

Filigree, highly precise structures possible

In previous glass processing, for example by melting and applying using a nozzle, the surface became rough, the material was porous and contained voids. “We are presenting a method that means an innovation in material processing,” explains Rapp. "The material of the manufactured piece is high-purity quartz glass with its corresponding chemical and physical properties." The glass structures manufactured by the scientists at KIT have resolutions in the range of a few micrometers. "The dimensions of the structures can be in the range of several centimeters," emphasizes Rapp.

3D-shaped glass could be used, for example, in data technology. “The next but one generation of computers will count on light, which requires complicated processor structures. With the help of 3D technology, for example, small, complex structures could be produced from a multitude of tiny, differently aligned optical components,”explains the mechanical engineer. The smallest analysis systems can be manufactured from miniature glass tubes for biological and medical technology. In addition, 3D-shaped microstructures made of glass could be used in a wide variety of areas of optics, from glasses with special requirements to the lens of the laptop camera.

The development of the researchers led by Bastian E. Rapp, a group leader, is a result of the “NanoMatFutur” funding program, with which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the development of material innovations for industry and society.

Hannover Messe 2017: Hall 2, B16

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