When it comes to innovative 3D-printing techniques, we always know MIT has our back. From balls that build themselves to shape-shifting surfaces, there seems to be no end to what these engineering wizards can dream up.
Memorizing as it is, Glass 3D Printing (G3DP) is relatively simple. The top chamber of the printer basically functions as a small kiln. The kiln fires up, climbing to an impressive 1900 degrees Fahrenheit (1038°C), which easily melts the glass filament within. Glowing, molten glass is then funneled down through the nozzle onto a platform to cool and harden.
The printer works beautifully, creating clear glass structures that will hold up to the test of time, but it didn’t start off that way. The team’s initial creations were fragile, brittle, and often broke before they were finished.”Glass‐based materials hold the potential to provide particular value in the additive manufacturing field due to their hardness, optical qualities, affordability and availability,” they write. “But they need to be cooled down to room temperature in a slow and controlled way.”
When glass cools too quickly, the temperature difference between the inner and outer layers causes it to crack. (If you’ve ever put a hot glass in cold water, you’ve experienced this first-hand.) To get around this, the crew added a secondary heat-treating (annealing) chamber, which brings the glass down in temperature gradually.
“Glass was first created in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago,” says Mediated Matter. “Precise recipes for its production – the chemistry and techniques – often remain closely guarded secrets.” It may have taken some trial and error, but if the video is any indication, it’s safe to say they’ve nailed it. We can’t wait to see what applications for the new tech pop up over the coming year.
Want to see some of the fantastical glass in person? Several pieces will go on display next year at the Smithsonian Design Museum.