Through the Looking Glass

3D Printed Glass developed by MIT is Mesmerizing

3D printed glass

We’ve already printed plastic, concrete, clothes and food. Now, MIT has developed a process for 3D printed glass — and it’s gorgeous.

Glass is particularly hard to create. The material must be heated at the right temperature for manipulation, and must cool slowly enough not to crack. Making 3D printed glass is another layer of complication entirely, but the prospect of working with this material in additive manufacturing is very exciting indeed.

The Mediated Matter Group at MIT have made a critical breakthrough with their latest project, “Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass.” The full details will be published in next month’s edition of 3D Printing and Manufacturing.

The team has built their own printer for this specific task, the G3DP. The G3DP addresses the difficulty of glass printing by splitting the process between two chambers.

Everything begins in the crucible kiln, the searing hot compartment where glass is heated before printing. The temperature is kept at the lower end of what is necessary (about 1,040 degrees Celsius), to ensure the glass isn’t too warm and “oozy” while printing. The glass is melted in the upper chamber for about 4 hours.

During this time, the nozzle is kept cool, stopping glass from flowing freely. Helium is used to enlarge and bring any small bubbles to the surface, removing them from the material. When it’s finally ready, the crucible and nozzle are set to over 1000 degrees and the printing begins.

For the second stage, the glass moves to the bottom chamber, which is heated at around 480 degrees to keep the glass from cracking during the cooling process.

While the MIT team continues to make a few tweaks to the process, they have had many stellar results that will be on display at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in 2016.

They’ve also made a video of the printing process, that is 100% worth checking out. The process of creation is just as artful as the finished result. (Via: CNET)