In collaboration with the University of Fribourg, the startup Glassomer has developed a feedstock that enables the processing of glass in powder injection molding. The collaboration between Injex and Glassomer enables the rapid and economical implementation of complex and high-precision components made of silica glass.
Photos: Neptun Lab | Universität Freiburg
Glass has been used in a wide variety of applications for centuries. From church windows to the coating of implants. The extraordinary properties of this material give it unbeatable advantages. Above all, its optical, mechanical and thermal properties are far superior to those of plastic.
Nevertheless, efforts are being made to dispense with glass wherever possible and to use plastic as an alternative. This is mainly due to the demanding and energy-intensive processing of glass. At the same time, components made of glass can only be manufactured with limited precision. If greater dimensional accuracy is required, complex processes such as grinding are used, which makes production even more expensive.
The Freiburg-based startup Glassomer is now opening up access to this untapped potential of glass. A novel starting material enables glass to be processed on conventional injection molding machines. The silica glass is embedded in a thermoplastic feedstock that can be processed at just 130°C. The resulting green compact still has more of the properties of a plastic component. Only after the feedstock has been thermally removed and the quartz glass sintered at 1300°C does the component become real glass. This is physically and chemically indistinguishable from conventional silica glass.
Similar processes are already known for processing metals (MIM) and ceramics (CIM). Until now, glass has always resisted processing in powder injection molding because of its properties. It is only the newly developed processes of the company Glassomer that make it possible to produce glass as feedstock in granular form.
This process was recently presented in the journal Science: "Mader, M., Schlatter, O., Heck, B., Warmbold, A., Dorn, A., Zappe, H., ... & Rapp, B. E. (2021). High-throughput injection molding of transparent fused silica glass. Science, 372(6538), 182-186."
Injex, Glassomer and the University of Freiburg have been collaborating in the field of glass injection molding for some time. Injex's unparalleled rapid mold making enables rapid testing and cost-effective implementation of complex and high-precision components made of quartz glass. The feedstock produced by Glassomer can also be sintered in-house, reducing lead times from CAD file to finished part to less than two weeks.
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