3D Printing Glass
For the first time, researchers have successfully 3D printed chalcogenide glass, a unique material used to make optical components that operate at mid-infrared wavelengths. The ability to 3D print this glass could make it possible to manufacture complex glass components and optical fibers for new types of low-cost sensors, telecommunications components and biomedical devices. In the Optical Society (OSA) journal Optical Materials Express, researchers from the Centre d'Optique, Photonique et Laser (COPL) at Université Laval in Canada, Patrick Larochelle and his colleagues, describe how they modified a commercially available 3D printer for glass extrusion. The new method is based on the commonly used technique of fused deposition modeling, in which a plastic filament is melted and then extruded layer-by-layer to create detailed 3D objects.
Chalcogenide glass softens at a relatively low temperature compared to other glass. The research team therefore increased the maximum extruding temperature of a commercial 3D printer from around 260 °C to 330 °C to enable chalcogenide glass extrusion. They produced chalcogenide glass filaments with dimensions like the commercial plastic filaments normally used with the 3D printer. Finally, the printer was programmed to create two samples with complex shapes and dimensions. 3D printed chalcogenide-based components would be useful for infrared thermal imaging for defense and security applications. They would also enable sensors for pollutant monitoring, biomedicine and other applications where the infrared chemical signature of molecules is used for detection and diagnosis.
The researchers are now working to improve the design of the printer to increase its performance and enable additive manufacturing of complex parts or components made of chalcogenide glass. They also want to add new extruders to enable co-printing with polymers for the development of multi-material components.
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