Industrial 3D printing will play a key role in the future smart factory and is one of the driving forces behind the digital factory. The established processes of additive manufacturing (AM) are so sophisticated that they can enable not only prototypes, but also individualized components and parts, to be manufactured cost-effectively. Currently, researchers are working intensively on the development of new materials and the adaptation to laser-supported production processes.
For example, a procedure has been developed at the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) with which glass can be used for additive manufacturing; the research team was able to introduce its True3DGlass at the 2017 Hanover Trade Fair. With this technology, nanoparticles of high-purity quartz glass are mixed with a small amount of molten plastic and hardened in certain places using stereolithography. Any remaining molten liquid is rinsed out, leaving behind the desired structure. The plastic still mixed in with this is removed by heating. With dimensions in the region of several centimeters, these glass structures have resolutions of just a few micrometers.
The MIT has previously introduced a first 3D printer for the additive manufacturing of optically transparent glass . This procedure is based on the principle of fused deposition modeling (FDM). For glass, however, the temperature must be significantly higher, or roughly 1,000 °C. The Micron3DP printers also work using the same method. The problems associated with the cooling process have evidently already been solved at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LNLL).