Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printing Transparency

2019-12-13

Tessa Blokland  

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Is it possible to 3D print glass? Glass has great optical and physical properties: it is optically transparent, it has chemical and thermal resistance, and a long lifetime. But it is also technically hard to 3D print. Lucky for us, material researchers are continuously exploring possibilities with 3D printing. With the possibility of 3D printing glass, one can create extremely complex transparent structures for numerous uses. Here are some quite recent 3D printed examples of glass objects. And if you know more and other examples, please share these with us!

In 2017, TAKT Projects were selected for the Swarovski Designers of the Future Award 2017 at Design Miami, Basel. Instead of using the smoothness, clarity, and transparency of the Austrian crystal glass, the Japanese design studio used the 3D printing layered process, not as a constraint but as an aesthetic element. Takt Projects collaborated with Israeli start-up Micron3DP, who – already in 2015 –  has succeeded in printing ‘soft’ glass at a temperature of 850 degrees Celsius, as well as borosilicate glass at a melting temperature of 1640 degrees Celsius. Ice Crystal is a collection of 3D printed glass objects emphasizing this new manufacturing of glass and the way the layering transforms the light.

The 3D printed glass object you see here is a proof of concept from German start-up Glassomer. The material used is a liquid photopolymer resin with 60% tiny glass particles (50-100nm in size). On their website, you can read how exactly the resin transforms into glass.

Another group of researchers from ETZ Zürich also found a way to 3D print glass. They have developed a special resin that contains plastic and organic molecules to which glass precursors can be bonded. The post-processing here also comes in two different temperatures of firing the material. The 3D printed glass objects you see here are still very small, but it is possible to 3D print complex geometries in a material that becomes glass.

The last 3D printed glass example comes from Neri Oxman‘s Mediated Matter Group. The team developed a method to 3D print optically transparent glass structures at architectural dimensions. They called this G3DP2, a new manufacturing platform which includes a digitally integrated thermal control system – to accompany the various stages of glass-forming – as well as a novel 4-axis motion control system permitting flow control, spatial accuracy and precision, and faster production rates with continuous deposition of up to 30kg of molten glass, so the website states.

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Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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