Hot on the trail of new and exciting processes is a method to 3D print glass. MIT’s Mediated Matter Group has made a video of how 3D printing clear (optically transparent) glass is now a reality.
They are of course labelling their process and machine with the acronym G3DP.
After thousands of years, artisans working to make glassware have some amazing opportunities in front of them. The possibility to create very unusual shapes under the control of a 3D printer, laying down glass, one layer at a time into a solid object.
Glass Making Ancient History
Early manufacture of glass can be traced all the way back to 3500 BC in Mesopotamia and around the Eastern mediterranean including Syria and ancient Egypt. A little later under the Roman empire, glass making became increasingly popular being used for many applications and especially by those who were wealthy enough to pay for its manufacture.
Over the millennia there have been so many revolutions in glass making; an interesting subject which is tied very much to our development throughout the centuries and our human history. One only has to think about the beautiful stain glass windows which adorn the cathedrals of Europe.
Even as late as the 1950s, an ingenious process was invented by Pilkington in the U.K. to make windows and flat panels by floating molten glass onto a bed of molten metal. This provided a highly efficient means to mass produce windows bringing the cost of manufacture down to pennies per metre squared. Today, nobody worries too much about the cost of a glass window in comparison to what it would have cost only a hundred years ago.
3D Printing Glassware
G3DP from MIT is not so much revolutionary in how it creates glass (the process remains essentially the same) but what is does with it. How it handles it in its molten state. Using a combination of two chambers in a new type of machine for additive manufacturing, the molten glass is laid down one layer at a time to form the solid object.
The first chamber is basically a kiln which heats the glass to around 1,040 °C (1900 °F). The second chamber below then anneals the glass cooling it and softening it so it can be formed into shapes or in this case pushed trough a nozzle which precisely layers it out.
The video is just cool to watch on a late Friday afternoon before the weekend starts!
Video courtesy of vimeo, posted originally by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mediated Matter Group.