3D Printing Meets Glass

by Julie Barr on September 4, 2015 · 5 comments

in Arts, Design, Research, Video

090415_glassprinter_cropThese days, 3D printers—also known as additive manufacturing—are being used to revolutionize industries. They are capable of printing in materials like metals, rubber, plastics, clay, and metal and have applications for industries ranging from construction to fashion to medical devices. Now, thanks to the work of the Mediated Matter group, we can add glass to the list of printable materials.

The G3DP project, a molten glass extruder, is the first of its kind to print optically transparent glass. It was created in collaboration between the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and MIT’s Glass Lab and Wyss Institute. Researchers include John Klein, Michael Stern, Markus Kayser, Chikara Inamura, Giorgia Franchin, Shreya Dave, James Weaver, Peter Houk, and Professor Neri Oxman.

090415_glassprinter2_cropThe G3DP uses a dual-heated chamber concept to steadily heat the material for even flow. An upper chamber initially heats the glass, and the lower chamber heats and steadily cools the glass at it exits the device, to prevent internal stresses and overly quick cooling which would cause the glass to break or strain. The printer is made of 80/20 aluminum stock and square steel tube. The system is mobile, mounted on pneumatic casters that allow it to be moved without damaging the fragile ceramic kilns. Until now, similar devices have been unable to handle such high melting point materials and facilitate a steady and safe cooling process.

According to the Mediated Matter group, “The project synthesizes modern technologies, with age-old established glass tools and technologies producing novel glass structures with numerous potential applications.”

Not only does the printer create beautiful pieces of glass, but the technology will allow new uses for the glass-based material in additive manufacturing due to its hardness, optical qualities, affordability, and availability.

The full text version of Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass will appear in the September 2015 issue of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.

Watch a video of the printer in action.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

vishak sankaran September 19, 2015 at 12:06 pm

Very nice.


Antoniodesk2015@gmail.com Antoniodesk2015@gmail.com Antoniodesk2015@gmail.com September 20, 2015 at 9:20 am

Sound so exiting. Printing something that is in a different temperature. It is like revolution by revolution. Wonder what/where we can go from here? Imagination…. Salud. From Bali…


Joe Atkinson September 20, 2015 at 8:29 pm

The video could have been a part of the Star Trek movie I saw last night, but I did not come away with any more understanding of the printing process than the title 3D Printing Meets Glass told me. No verbal or written description, no temperatures, cooling rates,etc.


Enviro-Equipment, Inc. September 25, 2015 at 12:21 pm

The reason it’s lacking in specifics is because it’s purely a promotional video as opposed to an informational one. I can only surmise that the reason for this video is to raise interest for either investors or future customers.


Kelsey October 9, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Very cool. I’m excited to see where technology continues to take us in the future. How long does this process take?


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