Programmable printing devices may find use in a wide range of applications, from scientific to artistic. Glass is liquid at high temperatures, and artisans have used this to craft glass into virtually any shape. Being able to “print” a glass object on demand, however, hasn’t been tried.
In 2015, Micron 3DP claimed credit for being the first to “print” with molten glass. The resulting product isn’t the highly transparent, smooth-finished delicate glass that you’d see coming out of an artisan’s shop. Instead, the products are made from precisely coiled, small streams of molten glass, that are painstakingly looped on top of each other to make the final 3-D form. The resulting product is very solid – more like a glass paperweight than a piece of fine stemware.
Nonetheless, the ability to print glass objects is attractive to those who require specialized glassware to complete their work. Micron 3DP promises that the new printer can deliver much more sophisticated pieces made from conventional soda-lime materials. The improvement comes thanks to the new printer’s ability to work with molten glass at a thickness of 100 microns. Previous glass printing was limited to material that was about 4,000 microns thick.
The much finer control provides a finished product that is more densely packed and far more transparent than earlier attempts at 3D glass printing. In addition, the fineness of the molten glass medium as it leaves the printer will allow the device to make much more delicate objects.
The current printer is limited to making objects no bigger than a standard pint glass, but future improvements could lead to devices that can print larger products.
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Photo Credit: Samuel Huron, via Flickr.com