3D-printing of glass ? Yes Its Possible

Three-dimensional printing allows extremely small and complex structures to be made even in small series. A method developed at the KIT for the first time allows also glass to be used for this technique. As a consequence of the properties of glass, such as transparency, thermal stability and resistance to acids, the use of this material in 3D-printing opens up manifold new applications in production and research, such as optics, data transmission, and biotechnology. The process is published in “Nature” and also presented at the Hanover Fair. 

Complicated high-precision structures made of glass can be manufactured in a 3D-printing process.

Glass is one of mankind’s oldest materials. It was used as far back as in ancient Egypt and ancient Rome and has found a place now also in manufacturing technology of the 21st century.

The scientists mix nano-particles of high-purity quartz glass and a small quantity of liquid polymer and allow this mixture to be cured by light at specific points – by means of stereo lithography. The material, which has remained liquid, is washed out in a solvent bath, leaving only the desired cured structure. The polymer still mixed in this glass structure is subsequently removed by heating.

“The shape initially resembles that of a pound cake; it is still unstable, and therefore the glass is splintered in a final step, i.e. heated so that the glass particles are fused”. The scientists present the method in the “Nature” journal under the title of “Three-dimensional Printing of Transparent Fused Silica Glass.”

The variety of 3D-printing techniques available so far have been used on polymers or metals, but never on glass. Where glass was processed into structures, for instance by melting and application by means of a nozzle, the surface turned out to be very rough, the material was porous and contained voids.

“We present a new method, an innovation in materials processing, in which the material of the piece manufactured is high-purity quartz glass with the respective chemical and physical properties,”. The glass structures made by the KIT scientists show resolutions in the range of a few micrometers – one micrometer corresponding to one thousandth of a millimeter. However, the structures may have dimensions in the range of a few centimeters.

3D-formed glass can be used, for instance, in data technology. “The next plus one generation of computers will use light, which requires complicated processor structures; 3D-technology could be used, for instance, to make small, complex structures out of a large number of very small optical components of different orientations,” explains the mechanical engineer.

For biological and medical technologies, very small analytical systems could be made out of miniaturized glass tubes. In addition, 3D-shaped micro-structures of glass could be employed in a variety of optical areas, from eyeglasses meeting special requirements to lenses in laptop cameras.

Internet of Things (IoT) – Is It Really A New Thing ?


The IoT is a popular buzzword in the computing industry, it appears in the marketing campaigns of major networking companies such as microprocessor giants .However, the phrase represents ideas that have existed since the beginning of the Web or been written about in whitepapers from well-known research laboratories.

So why isn’t the IoT a standard part of the way we do business today? Why is it still the subject of speculation and vision statements in keynote addresses at well-known computer industry events such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show?

The answer appears to be that the IoT exists for a small number of technologies that have the ingredients for a successful business case. In general, these early systems have tended to be closed ecosystems, using private APIs and locking up the data. This is counter to the spirit of open systems at the heart of the original Internet standards, reflecting instead the more recent commercial successes of proprietary business entities.

You can actually buy home automation systems that connect to the Internet through your home’s Wi-Fi. These systems are usually built with a bridge that controls the automation components through proprietary protocols on one side and communicates with open protocols to a proprietary Web service on the other.

Users can then employ desktop computers or smartphones as a client to control their home by interacting with the Internet service, effectively providing user interface hardware at no cost to the IoT device manufacturer.


FIGURE  Various forms of electronic tags support the Physical Web (all about the size of a quarter): (1) a near-field communication (NFC) tag; (2) a quick response (QR) code; and (3) a Bluetooth low energy (BLE) tag. However, it is not clear which technology—each with its own affordances and problems—will become the primary IoT enabler.

A significant hurdle to fully realizing the IoT relates to scale— specifically, expanding the Internet to IoT scale means that the address space for the Internet will need to increase by several orders of magnitude. Therefore, another requirement for supporting the IoT is a larger device address space than that provided by IPv4.

To enable this kind of expansion, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has been working on the IPv6 standard for some time. When the transition is complete, the address space will be large enough to support every object on the planet, enabling embedded computers of all sizes to be easily integrated into the Internet.

However, a large percentage of the objects in the IoT will not be suitable for direct wired or wireless connection to the Internet, falling into the class of passive devices.

For these objects, a tag, smartphone, and proxy Web service is needed to provide users with the object’s Web presence. Of all the visionary ideas around the IoT, this one has made the least progress to date.