The traditional way to integrate a 3D object with a flat sheet glass is to heat the glass and bend it with a bending mold. However, mold making is quite costly and casting takes time. What the scientists at Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials (IWM) developing is a laser-based alternative which possibly becomes a cheaper and quicker way to process glass.
The process begins with placing a sheet glass in the open space of an oven, facing down (the oven is pre-heated to the temperature just below the glass melting point). Once the glass reaches the pre-heated temperature, a laser beam guided by moving reflective mirrors will selectively heat the specific spots that you intend to change the shape, melting the glass in the spot into thick honey-like fluid. In absence of support under the glass plate (other than the support around the edges), the gravity will make the heated portions sink. As soon as the desired form has been achieved, the laser is switched off, leaving the glass cooling down and solidifying again in its new shape.
The whole process takes approximately half an hour. Depending on the shape required, it takes only a few minutes to place the glass in the oven, exposed to the laser, and take it out for cooling.