Shaping glass is mainly based on processes such as melting, grinding, or etching. These processes are decades old, technologically demanding, energy-intensive, and severely limited in terms of the shapes that can be realized. Researchers have developed a process that makes it possible to form glass easily, quickly, and in almost any shape using injection molding. The process combines polymer and glass processing, effectively replacing both mass-produced products and complex polymer structures and components with glass.
Injection molding is the most important process in the plastics industry and enables the fast and cost-effective production of components in almost any shape and size. Transparent glass previously could not be molded using this process. With the new “Glassomer” injection molding technology from a special granulate, it is now possible to mold glass in high throughput at 130 °C. The injection-molded components are then converted into glass in a heat treatment process — the result is pure quartz glass. The process requires less energy than conventional glass melting, resulting in energy efficiency. The formed glass components have a high surface quality, so that post-treatment steps such as polishing are not required.
The designs made possible by Glassomer’s glass injection molding technology have a range of applications, from data technology and solar technology, to lab-on-a-chip and medical technology. In addition to transparency, the very low coefficient of expansion of quartz glass also makes the technology suited for sensors and optics, which work reliably at any temperature if the key components are made of glass.
The researchers demonstrated that micro-optical glass coatings can increase the efficiency of solar cells.