MIT Begins 3D-Printing Glass

3D-printing is now expanding to the world of molten glass thanks to MIT researchers.
Joseph Wolkin

The world of 3D-printing is expanding day-by-day. 

Thanks to researchers from MIT, 3D-printing is taking a jump into the world of glass. Believe it or not, molten glass is the latest part of 3D-printing that MIT believes will change the world.


Researchers Chikara Inamura, Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Peter Houk, and Neri Oxman published their findings in the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing journal. Not only does the system they created offer control over the hot glass material, but it creates a state-of-the-art final product.

The combination of additive manufacturing with molten glass "presents a potential path toward production of highly complex geometry and custom-designed objects while retaining the optical transparency and chemical stability available through traditional manufacturing processes," the research states.

The MIT researchers call the new printer G3DP2.

What Does This 3D-Printer Do?

G3DP2 is "a new AM platform for molten glass that combines digitally integrated three-zone thermal control system with four-axis motion control system, introducing industrial-scale production capabilities with enhanced production rate and reliability while ensuring product accuracy and repeatability, all previously unattainable for glass."

Essentially, it's a mega 3D-printer. It does the unthinkable. 

For the first time, the MIT researchers believe this 3D-printer offers ideal transparency to create high-resolution sintered glass printing.

The silicate glass particles, they say, are suspended in resin. This allows it to form into complex geometries before the postprocessing removes the resin to create the glass body.

"This approach is suitable for fabricating small and highly detailed parts such as microfluidics and optics because it delivers high precision and optical transparency," the research states. 

The project has two goals: 1) To create an industrial-scale molten glass 3D-printer and 2) Develop a 3D-printer glass structure that's capable of evaluating "practical capabilities of the new system in an industrial production." 

The G3DP2 printer works by using a closed, heated box to keep the melted glass in place, with a thermally-controlled one for the actual printing to take place. Then, a plate descends the object to let it print, just like a regular 3D-printer. 

Thanks to this innovation, MIT believes it can be used for decoration or building. Eventually, this 3D-printer can hit the marketplace and help people build more than ever before.

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