Is this glass half full or half empty? Well, it doesn't matter when the glass has been 3D printed! An ingenious group of scientists have recently printed some spectacular glass creations.
The glass sculptures were created by a group called Mediated Matter, led by Neri Oxman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The color and transparency of the glass can be altered, as well as other properties such as how the glass reflects and refracts light.
The kit used to print these masterpieces, like the one below, is highly specialized. There are two main parts: The first component is a kiln where molten glass is poured into and kept at around a toasty 1000°C (1832°F), and the other is the printing chamber found underneath the kiln, which basically acts as a nozzle to ooze the molten glass out onto a surface. The glass cools fast enough to maintain structural integrity without the need for supports. The movement of the printer is very similar to other 3D printers that don't use molten glass.
Each layer of glass that is printed has a height of approximately 4.5 millimeters and a width of 7.95 millimeters. Since the glass is still slightly soft after ejection, there is a small amount of shifting before the strand cools. According to 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, "the deviation of the filament centers from the centerline was 0.18 millimeters." This deviation is something that designers will need to keep in mind when whipping up new ideas for glass creations.
When the sculpture is finally finished, the flow of filament needs to be cut. This is no problem, for all it needs is a bit of compressed air to cool the nozzle down and end the flow of molten glass.
Check out the video below to learn more about how the printer works.