It’s a feat and it was 3D printed. It is the smallest glass cup in the world, submicrometer scale. It has a rim smaller than the width of a human hair. It was made to demonstrate a new simplified technique for silica glass structures. It has a variety of applications, from telecommunications to robotics.
It was developed at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. KTH professor Frank Niklaus gives details in the journal Nature Communications.
Can be used for custom lenses for medical machinery that performs minimally invasive surgery. Also micro-robots that navigate in extreme environments. Or filters and couplers for fiber optic networks, to name a few applications.
One such fiber optic filter was produced in the studio. Devices can be printed directly onto something as thin as a human hair. “The backbone of the Internet is based on optical fibers made of glass. All kinds of filters and couplers are needed, which can now be 3D printed with our technique.” Says co-author Kristinn Gylfason in a statement. “This opens up many new possibilities.”
The method drastically reduces the energy needed to 3D print silica glass. Normally it requires heating materials up to several hundred degrees for hours. In this method there is no need for heat treatment. The glass can withstand extreme heat in applications.
Another benefit, he says, is that the method can produce silica glass using commercially available materials. This allows it to be widely used in various application scenarios, he says. “Our method presents an important breakthrough. It is necessary for glass 3D printing to be used in practical scenarios.”
So what’s up with that wine glass – is it really the world’s smallest glass goblet? After all, many demonstration objects have already been 3D printed. There are statues and model cars. Niklaus says the difference is that this demonstration is in glass. “Definitely no one has 3D printed a wine glass consisting of printed glass,” he says.