Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a process for 3D printing of objects made from transparent glass.
The method, which MIT calls G3DP, uses a cartridge within which glass is heated up to 1000°C. The molten glass is then funnelled from the cartridge through an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle and layered onto a platform where it cools down to build up glass objects.
In a video released by the MIT Glass Lab, the 3D printer can been seen creating various elegant glass designs based on Computer Aided Design (CAD) models.
The researchers said the technique allows tuning the transparency, colour, as well as light transmission, reflection and refraction of the glass, allowing multiple geometrical and optical variations.
The possibility to change the characteristics of the 3D-printed glass objects presents a major advantage for various industrial applications, the team believes.
The technology was developed by the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab in cooperation with the Mechanical Engineering Department, the MIT Glass Lab and Wyss Institute.
Some of the objects will appear in an exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2016.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been hailed as the next big revolution in manufacturing. So far, the technique can comfortably handle materials that melt at lower temperatures but researchers all around the world are working on more challenging and advanced applications that would allow working with metals, concrete and even biological material.