New technology 3D prints glass microstructures with rays of light

Image credit: Credit: Joseph Toombs

3D-printing process – computed axial lithography (CAL) – can print microscopic features and in glass, with this new system dubbed “micro-CAL”

Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed this new way to 3D-print glass microstructures that is faster and produces objects with higher optical quality, design flexibility and strength, according to a new study published in the April 15, 2022 issue of Science.

The CAL process is fundamentally different from today’s industrial 3D-printing manufacturing processes, which build up objects from thin layers of material. This technique can be time-intensive and result in rough surface texture. CAL, however, 3D-prints the entire object simultaneously. Researchers use a laser to project patterns of light into a rotating volume of light-sensitive material, building up a 3D light dose that then solidifies in the desired shape. The layer-less nature of the CAL process enables smooth surfaces and complex geometries.

The CAL 3D-printing method offers manufacturers of microscopic glass objects a new and more efficient way to meet customers’ demanding requirements for geometry, size and optical and mechanical properties. Specifically, this includes manufacturers of microscopic optical components, which are a key part of compact cameras, virtual reality headsets, advanced microscopes and other scientific instruments. “Being able to make these components faster and with more geometric freedom could potentially lead to new device functions or lower-cost products,” said Taylor.

[Source date – Apr 15 2022)

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