Three-dimensional printing allows extremely small and complex structures to be made even in small series. A method developed at the KIT for the first time allows also glass to be used for this technique. As a consequence of the properties of glass, such as transparency, thermal stability and resistance to acids, the use of this material in 3D-printing opens up manifold new applications in production and research, such as optics, data transmission, and biotechnology. The process is published in “Nature” and also presented at the Hanover Fair.
Glass is one of the most important and fascinating materials mankind has ever used. It is highly transparent and highly resistant to heat and acids. It is omnipresent in everyday life. Its outstanding optical, chemical, and thermal properties make glass an attractive material for extremely small components, such as minute optical lenses or complex microsystems, e.g. laboratories on chips for the analysis of smallest liquid volumes. So far, high temperatures and the use of hazardous chemicals were required to produce such microstructures. Scientists of KIT have now developed a simple alternative: “Liquid Glass” is viscous at room temperature and can be shaped into any form, pre- cured under light, and baked out in the furnace. Hence, structuring glass components is (nearly) as easy as baking cookies. The initial material used for the process is a nanocomposite, a mixture of pulverized glass and plastic, that can be processed like a plastic material.
Nature: 3D-Printing of Glass Now Possible - KIT Press Release