By modification of transparent glasses and crystals with ultrafast laser radiation and subsequent wet-chemical etching (here named SLE = selective laser-induced etching), precise 3D structures have been produced, especially in quartz glass (fused silica), for more than a decade.
By the combination of a high precision three-axis system to move the glass sample and a fast 3D beam steering system to move the laser focus, the SLE process is now suitable to produce more complex structures in a shorter time. We have programmed a printer driver for commercial CAD software and flexible machine software enabling the automated production of complex 3D glass parts with the LightFab 3D Printer. New examples of 3D precision glass parts e.g. for lab-on-a-chip applications (cell-sorting microfluidics), electronics (glass via and connectors), semiconductor (quartz chucks), optics and precision mechanics are presented.
The SLE process is very scalable for high throughput since a faster writing speed results in higher selectivity and thus larger precision of the resulting structures. Thus SLE is a process which is suitable for mass production of 3D structures in glasses. Some examples of rapidly produced structures using our high speed beam deflection modules are demonstrated, which are the basis of our special machines enabling mass-production. Therefore, 3D printing of glasses is not only a niche technology for prototypes anymore.
Jens Gottmann, Martin Hermans, Nikolai Repiev, and Jürgen Ortmann, "Selective laser-induced etching (SLE): A scalable subtractive 3D printing process for transparent glasses and crystals (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10522, Frontiers in Ultrafast Optics: Biomedical, Scientific, and Industrial Applications XVIII, 105220X (Presented at SPIE LASE: January 29, 2018; Published: 14 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2290401.5751467267001.
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