London: Creating glass objects using 3D printing is not easy but a groups of researchers including one of Indian-origin has now used a better technique to produce complex glass objects with addictive manufacturing.
Researchers from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) used the method based on stereolithography, one of the first 3D printing techniques developed during the 1980s.
David Moore, Lorenzo Barbera and Kunal Masania in the Complex Materials group led by ETH processor Andre Studart developed a special resin that contains a plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors are bonded.
The resin can be processed using commercially available ‘Digital Light Processing’ technology.
This involves irradiating the resin with UV light patterns. Wherever the light strikes the resin, it hardens because the light sensitive components of the polymer resin cross link at the exposed points.
The plastic monomers combine to form a labyrinth-?like structure, creating the polymer. The ceramic-bearing molecules fill the interstices of this labyrinth, said the team in a paper published in the journal Natural Materials.
An object can thus be built up layer by layer. The researchers can change various parameters in each layer, including pore size.
“We discovered that by accident, but we can use this to directly influence the pore size of the printed object,” said Masania.
These 3D-printed glass objects are still no bigger than a die. Large glass objects, such as bottles, drinking glasses or window panes, cannot be produced in this way “which was not actually the goal of the project,” emphasised Masania.
The aim was rather to prove the feasibility of producing glass objects of complex geometry using a 3D printing process.
However, the new technology is not just a gimmick.
The researchers applied for a patent and are currently negotiating with a major Swiss glassware dealer who wants to use the technology in his company.