Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On November 26th 2019, the ETH Zurich university of Switzerland unveiled a new way to 3D print what a university press release referred to as “complex and highly porous glass objects.” Previous attempts to 3D print with glass have included using molten glass, although this requires equipment that can resist the necessary high temperatures. Others have 3D printed with powdered ceramics that can be sintered into glass. (The word sinter can be defined as “to cause to become a coherent mass by heating without melting.”) However, objects 3D printed this way cannot have very complex geometries. A group of researchers at the university developed a new technique to 3D print glass objects with complex geometries based on stereolithography, which was developed during the 1980s and was one of the first 3D printing techniques. Their work was published in the journal Nature Materials.

The researchers developed a resin containing a special polymer, as well as organic molecules ceramic glass precursors are bonded to. (The word precursor can be defined as “a substance, cell, or cellular component from which another substance, cell, or cellular component is formed.”) The resin is processed by irradiating it with specific patterns of ultraviolet light, such that it hardens wherever the light strikes it. This forms a labyrinth-like polymer structure with interstices filled by the aforementioned organic molecules. (The word interstice can be defined as “A space, especially a small or narrow one, between things or parts.”) This is done to make the object one layer at a time. Next, it is fired at 600˚C to burn off the polymer structure and then at 1000˚C to densify the ceramic structure into glass. The firing process significantly shrinks the objects, but makes it transparent and hard like window glass.

Although stuff 3D printed this way will be no larger than a 6-sided die, the aim of the project was to demonstrate the technique’s feasibility, not to see how big an object could be made this way. The researchers argue that the new technology is more than just a gimmick and have applied to patent it. At the time of press release, they were also in negations with an anonymous Swiss glassware dealer, who wants to use the technology in their company.

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

Disclaimer: Featured image of “Kulutusosuuskuntien Keskusliiton kokoelma D1974 7547C (30278592613)” (as it is known on Wikimedia Commons) was taken from Flickr’s The Commons and has no known copyright restrictions. (On Flickr it is known as “Kulutusosuuskuntien Keskusliiton kokoelma D1974_33_7547C.”) It is nonetheless attributed to The Finnish Museum of Photography.