The two platforms and dimensions of G3DP on the left, and G3DP2 on the right. Source: MIT
A new additive manufacturing platform has been used for the digital production of transparent glass on an industrial scale. The platform, named G3DP2, was developed by MIT scientists and used to transform molten glass into columns 3 meters high. This new process is described in the article “Additive Manufacturing of Transparent Glass Structures” published in “3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing”.
Advances in production during the industrial revolution have allowed the widespread use of glass in buildings and household objects. Nevertheless, processes for the manufacture of complex geometries and custom glass objects remain elusive.
AM was invented over 30 years ago, but only in the last decade has it spread from rapid prototyping to rapid production (RM). RM is defined as the industrial application of AM to produce functional parts for end use instead of simple prototypes. This leap forward has been driven by a multidisciplinary effort, engineers and scientists who have developed better machines and materials but also designers and artists who acquire advanced knowledge and implement new applications. Today, RM represents at least 60% of all printed parts. The economic impact of RM is amplified by continued industrial growth, with an average growth rate of 25.9% over the last 28 years.
G3DP2 is the second version of the new additive manufacturing technology (AM) for transparent glass products developed at MIT. One of the oldest production materials, glass, implies a complex chemistry of materials and requires extreme working temperatures: these are the underlying causes of the difficulties associated with its design and production. AM with molten glass represents a potential path towards the production of complex geometries and custom-designed objects while maintaining traditional optical transparency and chemical stability.
A series of material tests were conducted to evaluate the mechanical properties of 3D printed glass products from G3DP2. A series of 3 m tall glass columns has been designed and created digitally for the Milan Design Week 2017, highlighting for the first time the geometric complexity, the precision, the resistance and the transparency of 3D printed glass on an architectural scale.
Together, the G3DP2 installation and platform will be the basis for future work and will offer interesting possibilities for digital glass fabrication and potential applications in architectural and product design.