MIT’s New 3-D Printer Uses Molten Glass As A Medium

Watch a glassblowing robot make beautiful and precise glassware in this new video from MIT Media Lab.

 The researchers at MIT’s Mediated Matter have invented a 3-D printer—G3DP—that produces optically transparent glass with the push of a button.

Developed in collaboration with MIT’s Glass Lab, the printer contains a “kiln cartridge” that heats up the material at an incredible 1,900 degrees until it is molten. In a lower chamber, the glass is softened through a heat treatment process called annealing and funneled through an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle. In the video, the machine creates objects by methodically laying down transparent layers of glass that look like instantly hardening honey.

Mediated Matter—the innovative MIT Media Lab researchers behind a silk pavilion constructed by 6,500 live silkworms and a robot trained to weave architectural structures—has so far been using the printer to create glass vases, prisms and other decorative objects, which will exhibited in 2016 at the Cooper Hewitt in New York. However, Mediated Matter’s director Neri Oxman tells ArchDaily that the technology has the potential for applications on a much larger scale, like glass-printed building facades or fiber optic cables that transmit data faster. “Now [we can] consider printable optoelectronics, or the possibility of combining optical fibers for high-speed data transmission by light, combined within glass printed building facades. It also hold significant implications for all things glass: aerodynamic building facades optimized for solar gain,” she says.

[via FastCo and ArchDaily]

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