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LLNL Researchers Use Custom Ink To Successfully Print High-performance Optical Elements
Apr 03, 2018

A team of researchers at the Lawrence livermore national laboratory (LLNL) in California recently achieved an exciting new breakthrough in 3D printing optics.Scientists and engineers working on optical projects have developed a new 3D printing technology that USES special ink that is squeezed from a custom printer.They have successfully printed small test pieces with advanced optical properties, comparable to many commercially available glass products.Patents have now been applied for the innovative 3D printing process.


We have previously reported on LLNL's 3D printing optics.In the past, many 3D printing optical techniques have been tried, such as Fraunhofer IOF and Micron3DP, which usually use glass fiber and advanced SLA technology.LLNL researchers have pioneered the use of custom 3D printing inks to improve FDM deposition techniques for making glass.

The difficulty of printing optical effective execution is that the refractive index of glass is sensitive to its thermal history.In order to solve this problem, the researchers chose to store the material developed by special LLNL in a paste form, and then heated the whole print to form the correct shape.This means that the glass is able to maintain a uniform refractive index, eliminating any optical distortion that may result in a decrease in optical function.


Custom 3D printing ink is formed by the size of different silica and silica - titanium dioxide particles.They were fine-tuned to print glass with specific heat and mechanical properties and high gloss properties.

"From the composition of molten glass printed will usually show the texture in the process of 3D printing, even if you're going to polishing the surface, you can still see the printing process in bulk material evidence," LLNL chemical engineer Rebecca Dylla - Spears said, this approach allows us to obtain needed for optical uniformity index, now we can take these components and do some interesting things.


The initial print test was small, but now it has been proven that many possible applications can be used for testing.It is possible to make optical devices using geometric structures and composition changes, which are not possible with more traditional manufacturing methods.For example, 3D printing technology can be used to make lenses that can be polished with a gradual change in refractive index, which will replace the more expensive polishing techniques used in traditional curved lenses.

"Additive manufacturing gives us a new degree of freedom to combine optical materials in a way that we could not have done before," said dyla-spears."It opens up new design Spaces that didn't exist in the past, allowing for optical shapes and optical properties in the design materials."