Are custom glass blowers next in line to be replaced by robots?
The problem has always been in working with temperatures at close to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. However, MIT researchers have solved the problem.
MIT researchers have for the first time developed a new high-temperature system that can produce 3D printed transparent glass objects.
Researchers have attempted to 3D print glass objects in the past, but a major obstacle has been the extremely high temperature needed to melt the material.
The high-temperature system developed by the team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) retains the strength and transparency of glass.
The new system was developed by Neri Oxman, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab; Peter Houk, director of the MIT Glass Lab; MIT researchers John Klein and Michael Stern; and six others.
Like other 3D printers now on the market, the device can print designs created in a computer-assisted design programme, producing a finished product with little human intervention.
One challenge the researchers faced was keeping the filament of glass hot enough so the next layer of the structure would adhere to it, but not so hot that the structure would collapse into a shapeless lump.
They ended up producing three separate components that can independently be heated to the required temperatures – the upper reservoir for the stock of molten glass, the nozzle at the bottom of that chamber, and a lower chamber where the printed object is built up.
“Glass is inherently a very difficult material to work with,” Klein said.
The new process could allow unprecedented control over the glass shapes that can be produced, Oxman said.
“We can design and print components with variable thicknesses and complex inner features — unlike glassblowing, where the inner features reflect the outer shape,” Oxman said.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock