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3D printed glass achieved on scale

Glass has proved to be one of the most challenging materials for 3D printing. While it has been possible to design machines to produce molten glass on a mass scale, producing particular shapes has proved very challenging. This is because glass involves complex material chemistry and requires extreme working temperatures which creates persistent challenges associated with its design and production. Moreover, glass is brittle, susceptive to stress concentration, and fragile. These factors have been overcome following an invention from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The invention is a new type of 3D printer – the G3DP2 – that can handle glass in different shapes as the end product, to produce structured transparent glass. According to TechCrunch, the printer has a digitally integrated three-zone thermal control system together with four-axis motion control system. A moveable plate drops the object lower and lower as it is being printed and the print head moves above it.

READ MORE: Merging 3D printing and printed electronics innovations

The new device can achieve a rapid production rate and good reliability, in terms of ensuring product accuracy and repeatability. Test involving the printer showed it could produce 3 meter glass columns which met the criteria for geometric complexity, accuracy, strength, and transparency. These structures were exhibited at Milan Design Week 2017.

The research has been published in the journal 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, with the research paper titled “Additive Manufacturing of Transparent Glass Structures.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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