US researcher Neri Oxman of MIT Media Lab has developed a 3D printer capable of extruding molten glass to create custom glass forms in layers.
The G3DP works by using a dual-heated chamber. The upper chamber is a kiln cartridge that heats the raw material, while the lower compartment slowly cools the glass as it builds up layer by layer to prevent shattering. The molten material is funnelled through an alumina zirconia silica nozzle – a heat-resistant compound – that deposits a continuous stream of liquid glass in a pre-programmed formation.
The objects created by the printer are layered and intricate, with signature ridged patterns formed in waves of varying amplitude. The undulating surfaces interact with light to cast unique spectrums and patterns around the objects.
The adjustable texture of the glass is currently being developed for environmental applications that focus on reducing solar transmittance. The team are developing a hugely scaled up version of the G3DP, with the intent of applying this new technology to architectural projects.
New exciting advances are emerging from the world of 3D printing – see our Materials Focus 2017 rationale Controlled Surface for more pioneering processes. Also see our report Avant-Glass: Material Innovation for insights into new manufacturing methods for glass.