3D Printing Method Creates Complex Glass Objects with UV Light

ETH Zurich  researchers introduce a groundbreaking 3D printing method that produces highly porous and complex glass structures. They reported their results in the journal Natural Materials . The researchers developed a special resin that contains plastic and organic molecules, to which silicon-containing molecules are bonded. The resin can be processed using commercially-available Digital Light Processing (DLP) 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 silicon-containing molecules fill the spaces within this labyrinth. The researchers can build up an object layer by layer and change various parameters in each layer, including pore size. Weak light intensity results in large pores and intense illumination creates small pores. The researchers burn the blank at 600˚C to burn off the polymer framework, and then at around 1000˚C to densify the ceramic structure into glass. During the firing process, the objects shrink and become transparent and hard like window glass.