A lot of attention has been paid recently to 3D printing using metal, which will certainly mean a huge benefit to manufacturing as costs of these machines come down. Printing with glass, however, is a relatively unknown process. Thanks to MIT’s Mediated Matter Group, that may soon change.
Optically transparent and structurally sound, glass has played a significant role in the evolution of product and architectural design across scales and disciplines, and throughout the ages. Glass processing methods — such as blowing, pressing, and forming — have aimed at achieving increased glass performance and functionality. Nonetheless, techniques and technologies enabling controlled tunability of its optical and mechanical properties at high spatial manufacturing resolution have remained an end without a means.
This new manufacturing platform includes a digitally integrated thermal control system — to accompany the various stages of glass forming — as well as a novel four-axis motion control system permitting flow control, spatial accuracy and precision, and faster production rates with continuous deposition of up to 30kg of molten glass.
To demonstrate GLASS II’s capabilities, the Mediated Matter Group created an installation for Milan Design Week. Their display consisted of a set of glass columns, made with a series of 3D-printed lobed glass rings stacked on top of each other to a height of three meters. A lighting system inside moved up and down, producing beautiful patterns reminiscent of something one would find in a “pop archaeology” movie.
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