There are few materials that can’t be used for 3D printing these days, and though we rarely hear about glass 3D printing, it’s a technology that is slowly emerging, having noticeably appeared about a year ago at MIT. Even before MIT made the news with their glass 3D printing project, however, there was Micron3DP, an Israeli startup that announced their ability to print molten glass in high resolution back in 2015. While we haven’t heard much about the company over the last year or so, they’ve been hard at work developing their technology, and today they reported that they’ve completed the installation of their first fully operational high-resolution glass 3D printers.
The 3D printers, which have been installed inside the company’s Kfar-Saba facility, are serving as alpha units within Micron3DP while they begin negotiations for external beta testing. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, says Micron3DP CBO Haim Levi, and the company is thrilled to be at the cusp of the next stage of development.
“MICRON3DP technology is based on the FDM process which is implemented at extremely high temperatures (above 1000⁰C) at the printing environment, requiring high level of control and durability. Working at such high temperatures presented some serious and quite complex engineering challenges to the developers. We are glad that after investing much time and efforts we managed to meet these challenges and come up with a working printer that is in operation at our facilities. As for the IP side, the major components of the technology are well covered by several pending patents” Levi explained to 3DPrint.com.
“As you may already know, MICRON3DP was the first company to address the glass 3D printing market over a year ago, and presently we are in the midst of negotiating the first Beta Test installation with some leading organizations in the Glass Industry. We do plan to officially announce the printer at the upcoming Formnext 2017 show in November, in Frankfurt, Germany. Along with that we are looking for additional candidates for Beta Testing and we are open for discussing any new ideas on potential applications for our technology.”
Micron3DP is currently printing with two different types of glass: soda lime and borosilicate, with an interest in developing additional materials. Their glass 3D printer isn’t just a novelty – it prints actual high-quality, complex parts with a layer thickness as low as 100 microns, according to the company, and it’s about as fast as many FDM 3D printers. With a build volume of 200 x 200 x 300 mm, the Micron3DP printer is capable of prototyping as well as small batch production, and the company expects it to appeal to a wide range of fields including health care, architecture, art, manufacturing, microfluidics and more.
The appeal of glass printing is much more than novelty, too – the material has excellent heat and chemical resistance, which makes it suitable for a number of industrial applications, and it’s biocompatible and easy to sterilize, hence the strong medical appeal. It’s impossible to ignore the beauty of glass, too, and 3D designers, artists and architects are undoubtedly salivating at the idea of 3D printing with it for a number of reasons: namely, that printing is much easier, quicker and safer than glass-blowing, and the technology allows for the creation of complex, intricate parts of unique geometries.
“It is quite clear that the future of the 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing Industry mainly depends on materials,” Levi told us. “We have seen the big move from Polymers (and other types of plastics) to Metals, and then on to Composite materials and Ceramics. We believe that by adding Glass to the industry, Micron3DP will open up new applications and offer solutions to yet unmet needs.”
Micron3DP is currently operating several of the alpha units within their facilities, and plans to install the first beta units towards the end of 2017. We will be looking forward to seeing their introductions at formnext in a few months! You can see the printer at work below:
Discuss in the Micron3DP forum at 3DPB.com.
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