Swedish researchers have 3D printed the world’s smallest wine glass. The glass is so small that it is almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
The world’s smallest wine glass has rims narrower than the width of a human hair. Whole glass is a few micrometers in size and is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. Obviously, wine drinkers have little use for such a glass. But the Swedish researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology had a different goal in mind. They wanted to demonstrate a 3D printing method that could print tiny glass parts. They describe the technique in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
The process begins with a drop of hydrogen silsesquioxane (HSQ), a substance that contains the ingredients needed to form silica glass. The researchers irradiated the liquid with laser pulses, each lasting only a fraction of a second. Focusing the laser, they plotted the alignment of the glass in the liquid. So HSQ switched to silica glass in those places. Then they rinsed off the excess HSQ, leaving the miniature wine glass.
This technology is more efficient than current 3D printing methods for glass. Usually, glass has to be heated strongly for a long time – up to hundreds of degrees Celsius. It is no longer necessary.
Many new possibilities
The researchers say this technique could be used to make much smaller and more precise glass parts, for example in medical devices or in quantum optics. Telecommunications can also benefit. “The backbone of the Internet is based on optical fiberglass,” says Christine Gilvason, co-author of the study. “These systems require all kinds of filters and couplings that can now be easily 3D printed with our technology.” In addition, the glass components can be directly printed on the end of the fiber optic cable. “This opens up a lot of new possibilities.”
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