3D Printing Glass Using Stereolithography

3D printing is one of the best things that has happened to the maker community in recent years, however the resulting output has always been prone to damage when used in high temperature applications or places where the part may be exposed to corrosive chemicals. In a recent paper titled “Three-dimensional printing of transparent fused silica glass“, [Kolz, F et. al.] have proposed a method which uses stereolithography printers to create glass objects that can be used in research applications where plastic just won’t cut it.

When we say stereolithography you probably think of resin printing, but it refers to the general use of light beams to chain molecules together to form a solid polymer. The researchers here use amorphous silica nanoparticles as a starting point that is later cured by UV light creating a polymerized composite. This structure is then exposed to high temperatures of 1300 °C resulting in models consisting of pure fused silica glass. This means that the part has excellent thermal and chemical properties, and is also optically compatible with research grade equipment.

The resolution of the details of the print are only limited by the capabilities of the stereolithography printer being used. For those looking to add a DIY optical twist to a project, this will prove to be a boon. If 3D-printed lenses or micro-optical devices will become easy, the possibilities are endless. Creating spectrometers and optical sensors in the workshop may soon be a reality.

Similar work at MIT has been done in the past and with Autodesk’s Ember 3D printer being open source, the future has a lot of 3D printing ahead.

Thanks [JimK] for the tip.

16 thoughts on “3D Printing Glass Using Stereolithography

      1. One 3D printer making another 3D printer.
        Two 3D printers each making another 3D printer.
        Four 3D printers each making another 3D printer.
        Eight 3D printers each making another 3D printer.
        Sixteen 3D printers each making another 3D printer.
        Thirty 3D printers each making another 3D printer.
        Etc…
        “Soon” enough, you’ll be able to compete with China!

      1. You saw “lenses” and jumped right in with that “unacceptable for any kind of optics” gem of knowledge, huh?

        Look up what a diffuser is, and then figure out what most typical fresnel lenses are made from, before jumping in with the negatives about how microvoids spoil the whole shebang; voids in the amorphous glass can be perfectly acceptable depending on the applications…

        1. Nowhere did I see something that would come close to optical quality of even molded clear plastics, let alone optics-grade glass… needs a lot of work before it can be used for optics…You can’t usually see the voids even in cheap molded fresnel lenses, this is partially cloudy even to the naked eye.
          It would make more sense to perfect the high temperature bit, you can then make reasonably high quality molds for making lenses the more traditional way (since you’ll already have the oven), unless it’s pure SiO2, glasses have a considerably lower melting temp…
          DIY metal casting would also be a reasonable way to push development, as you’re making the mold directly, it’s more precise then the traditional way of positive model – negative mold.

          Just not directly printed optics…

  1. Its good to know with Stereo-lithography will would be able to use glass material. Mostly SLA has been used for resin based 3D printing service but future still hold lot of innovations and transformations when talking about additive manufacturing as a whole.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s