Additive manufacturing and 3D printing have seen significant improvements in terms of processing and instrumentation with the aim of increasing the complexity of the objects constructible, increasing resolution and lateral dimensions as well as speed of manufacturing. Interestingly, the choice of materials has not been increasing significantly. One of the oldest materials mankind has used was, until now, missing: Glass. Account of man-made objects in glass date back to 5000 BC which makes it the oldest artificial material used by mankind. Glass has numerous advantageous properties including unmatched optical properties, mechanical, thermal as well as chemical stability to name but a few. However, due to the fact that class can almost exclusively processed by etching using hazardous chemicals or from the melt (i.e., at temperature in the range above 1500 °C) glass has remained, until now, a material inaccessible for modern manufacturing methods including 3D printing.
Our group has recently introduced a major paradigm shift in the processing of glass with the introduction of a “Liquid Glass” nanocomposite which can be shaped at room temperature using methods known from polymer replication as well as modern 3D printing techniques. The nanocomposite is a honey-like transparent syrup which can be cured by light and, after thermal debinding and sintering, yields three-dimensional components with transparency, as well as chemical and mechanical properties identical to pure fused silica glass. The surface quality of these components meets the demand of (micro)optics and allows the manufacturing of diffractive and refractive optical elements as well as lenses.
Bastian E. Rapp, Frederik Kotz, Nico Keller, Kai Sachsenheimer, Nadine Kirschner, Tobias Nargang, and Christiane Richter, "Next generation 3D printing of glass: The emergence of enabling materials (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10544, Advanced Fabrication Technologies for Micro/Nano Optics and Photonics XI, 1054414 (Presented at SPIE OPTO: January 30, 2018; Published: 14 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2291565.5751529282001.
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