3D Print Transparent Glass

Glassomer, a German startup company has the capability to 3D print transparent glass. They produce solid glass from a liquid photopolymer resin. They have perfected the technique by selectively solidifying the photopolymer with a light source of suitable frequency, layer by layer. Glassomer hopes to produce not their own 3D printers but the resin needed for 3D printed transparent glass.

“The company does not intend on producing its own 3D printers, but instead wishes to merely produce the resin, which can apparently be used in any conventional resin 3D printer, either SLA or DLP. These processes involve selectively solidifying the photopolymer with a light source of suitable frequency, layer by layer to form a solid object.

Glassomer resin contains 60% glass particles.

What you don’t see is the glass. This resin is surprisingly 60% glass! There are tiny glass particles mixed in with an organic binder and the glass particles are rather small, at 50-100nm in size. That’s “nanometers”, or 1000X smaller than a micrometer. A 50nm length is equal to 0.00005mm. That’s pretty small! When 3D printed the resulting “green” object will appear white due to the porosity of the material. The post processing involves two steps.

The first step is to heat the green print to 600C, which burns out the organic binder, leaving only glass particles as a “brown” part.

The second and final step is to heat the brown print to 1300C to sinter the glass particles together. The result is a pure glass object with no porosity and completely transparent. The shrinkage rate through this process depends on the ratio of glass in the resin, but is typically around 15%. Curing times depend on the thickness of the print, but can be done in around 3.5 hours.

While the steps above are shown with a plain rectangular object, it is entirely possible to 3D print very complex shapes with the material. Here we see one of the likely popular applications of the Glassomer resin, diffraction objects.”

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