It looks a little like syrup being poured to create spirals and other spectacular shapes. It is rather fascinating to watch glass being created right before your eyes using, you guessed it… a 3D printer! This adds glass making to the already long list of things that these constantly evolving machines are able to create. It can take a bit of effort to get your head around the idea that 3D printers can extrude and create objects from various materials including plastic, metals and even human tissue. And now glass!
It isn’t candy or honey, as this video tells you, this is a glass object being created right in front of your eyes, using ancient techniques and blending them with modern technology. MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and MIT’s Glass Lab collaborated with the Mediated Matter Group to create beautiful glass objects. The team unveiled a new printing process to create optically transparent glass; a first of its kind process called G3DP. This manufacturing platform makes it possible create glass with different transparencies, colors and forms and could therefore impact glass making processes significantly in times to come.
The machine has dual chambers: the upper chamber is the kiln ‘cartridge’ that operates at about 1900°F and a lower chamber that helps the material cool down slowly to prevent cracking. The molten material is then extruded via an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle into shapes and designs required. Read more about 3D printing of glass at the MIT website.
The possibilities that open up as a result of such printers being available commercially are truly amazing. You could have access to glass printing services so that you could have glass ware customized to your own specifications: the shape, size and color that you want. You could use a 3D scanner to scan designs you want, tweak them to your preferences and have access to objects that you will love to use.
Perhaps in the not so distant future, one of these machines in your home could mean that you can create epic art born out of your own imagination. But apart from the aesthetic applications, there could be novel new applications in aerospace and communication (think 3D printed fiber optic cables), glass printed building facades and other unique glass structures.