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MIT Researchers: 3D Printing With Glass

Tech Crunch recently reported on a new paper published in the technical journal 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.  This paper, which was created by MIT researchers Chikara Inamura, Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Peter Houk, and Neri Oxman, details an exciting new process for 3D printing.

This system was designed for 3D printing molten glass.  This glass 3D printing process “offers far more control over the hot material and the final product.”  The team of researchers at MIT dubbed this process G3DP2 – they describe it as “a new AM platform for molten glass combining a digitally integrated three-zone thermal control system with a four-axis motion control system, introducing industrial-scale production capabilities with enhanced production rates and reliability while ensuring product accuracy and repeatability, all previously unattainable for glass.”

The G3DP2 system utilizes a “closed, heated box which holds the melted glass and another thermally controlled box where it prints the object.  A moveable plate drops the object lower and lower as it is being printed and the print head moves above it.  The system is [unique in that] it can be used for decoration or for building.  The researchers take special care to control the glass extrusion system to ensure it cools down and crystallizes without injecting impurities or structural problems.”

As the MIT researchers’ paper concludes: “in the future, combining the advantages of this AM technology with the multitude of unique material properties of glass such as transparency, strength, and chemical stability, we may start to see new archetypes of multifunctional building blocks.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of Tech Crunch

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