New laser-based technique for 3D printing complex glass components
3D printers often build up their creations in layers, piping out plastic, metal… even food to a precise computer-aided designs. Sometimes the fragile drying designs risk collapse, so temporary supports must be designed too – tweaks are needed for each design; sometimes that’s part of the fun. Here though, a more precise method parks a high-powered laser beam inside a vat of silica-containing resin. Each laser blast fuels a reaction which polymerises the silica into solid glass. Moving the laser beam traces out tiny feats of glassware, supported by the surrounding liquid which washes off to leave, well, parts for this centimetre-long bicycle behind, which are then finished off in a furnace. Showing off the intricate designs possible, the process could one day create custom components for microscopes or microfluidic devices used in labs to watch how cells progress on their own cycles.
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