Scientists from Canada’s Université Laval have successfully 3D printed objects made from chalcogenide glass.
Chalcogenide glass is widely used to make optical components that operate at mid-infrared wavelengths.
This ability to 3D print glass opens new avenues for manufacturing low-cost sensors, telecommunications components and even biomedical devices.
Patrick Larochelle and his colleagues from the university’s Centre d’Optique, Photonique et Laser (COPL) modified a commercially available 3D printer for their glass extrusion process.
The new method is based on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), whereby a plastic filament is melted and then extruded layer-by-layer to create detailed 3D objects.
“3D printing of optical materials will pave the way for a new era of designing and combining materials to produce the photonic components and fibers of the future,” says team member Yannick Ledemi.
“This new method could potentially result in a breakthrough for efficient manufacturing of infrared optical components at a low cost.”
The scientists chose chalcogenide glass in particular because it softens at a relatively low temperature when compared to other glass.
The researchers were thus able to increase the maximum extruding temperature of a commercial 3D printer from around 260 °C to 330 °C to enable chalcogenide glass extrusion.
They produced chalcogenide glass filaments with dimensions similar to the commercial plastic filaments normally used with the 3D printer.
The printer was also programmed to create two samples with complex shapes and dimensions.
“Our approach is very well suited for soft chalcogenide glass, but alternative approaches are also being explored to print other types of glass,” said Ledemi.
“This could allow fabrication of components made of multiple materials.”
“Glass could also be combined with polymers with specialized electro-conductive or optical properties to produce multi-functional 3D printed devices.”
Such components could be useful for infrared thermal imaging which are in great demand for defense and security applications.
The researchers are now working to improve the design of the printer.
They are planning to add new extruders to enable co-printing with polymers for the development of multi-material components.
Image and content: Steeve Morency/Université Laval