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.
Thanks [JimK] for the tip.