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Sintering Innovations To Be Seen

Posted on May 3rd, 2017 by in New Materials & Applications

3D Printing Glass

Image by KIT via KIT.edu

Whether in technique or application, innovations in additive manufacturing continue at a record pace. Recent material developments could now have you seeing better.

With many companies now using it in production, additive manufacturing has become a mature manufacturing process. Depending upon the material being used, subsequent layers are either directly fused using heat or lasers or require additional curing or solidification. Over the past several weeks, researchers and scientists have proven that “mature” doesn’t have to mean unchanging.

Having experienced firsthand the rough surface finish of many 3D printed parts, optical quality is not a characteristic I would necessarily expect. Researchers at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) hope to change that expectation by publishing a new application of 3D printing creating complex forms using glass. With material properties including transparency, thermal stability and resistance to acids, the use of glass introduces new applications in many areas including optics, data transmission, and biotechnology.

The KIT process involves suspending nanoparticles of quartz glass in a liquid polymer. Light is then used to selectively cure the mixture into a form that can be handled. A solvent bath removes the uncured polymer and a sintering process finally bonds the glass particles together. The technique of sintering has been used to manufacture parts from a variety of materials as discussed in this previous post. Learn more about the KIT process in the following video hosted on YouTube:

Combining 3D printing’s precision and ability to custom make individual or unique components with the optical properties of glass, it may be possible to custom fit eyeglasses addressing specific visual abnormalities of an individual or medically repair cataract unique to a patient. Other applications could include optical circuits in computers replacing electron pulses with light overcoming heating issues inherent in contemporary CPUs. I’ve seen the light with this development and am excited to see where it will lead.

Could 3D printing of glass change your company’s product line? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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