Researchers Achieve Transparent 3D Printed Glass

Posted Date 10/05/17

Glass, like metals, is a potentially huge application for 3D printing because of its many properties that make it so useful in a range of scientific and other activities. Yet 3D printing good-quality, transparent and structurally uniform glass has proved a challenge.

One team of researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National laboratory now say they’ve overcome the challenge by coming up with a two-step 3D printing process that produces glass closer to the traditional one in properties.

The team created an ink containing glass particles that is first used to print an object—at room temperature, no less—and then the object is sintered, to become transparent and optically uniform. Finally, the object goes through a finishing process, to optimize this uniformity.

In addition to the room temperature of printing, this process also features another potentially huge advantage: the refractive index of the items printed this way can be changed easily. This means that the complex-shape optics produced now to accommodate varying refractive indices in optic devices can in the future be 3D printed as single flat optics with varying refractive indices.

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