3D printing in glass

October 2, 2009

A team in the US has developed a way to produce glass objects using a 3D printer.

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A team of engineers and artists in Washington has developed a way to create glass objects using a 3D printer.

By replacing the powder used in 3D printers with powdered glass, they have created glass objects that held together and fused once heated to the required temperature.

Working at the University of Washington’s Solheim Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory, they have called the technique the Vitraglyphic process.

The team has been working on using new materials in the 3D printers, and have previously printed with ceramics. Mark Ganter, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-director of the Solheim Lab, said, “It became clear that if we could get a material into powder form at about 20 microcons we could print just about anything.”

Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Ronald Rael, has been working with the Solheim Lab to set up his own 3D printer. “3D printing in glass has huge potential for changing the thinking about applications of glass in architecture,” he said. “Before now, there was no good method of rapidly prototyping in glass, so testing designs is an expensive, time-consuming process.”

Rael added that the new technique allowed for greater variation. By adding different forms of glass at different stages of printing, it would be possible to change the performance of the material according to the requirements of the design.

*1* Grant Marchelli, a UW mechanical engineering graduate student, removes a new object from the Solheim Lab printer. Marchelli led development of the first method for 3-D printing in glass.
*2* An object printed from powdered glass using the Solheim Lab’s new Vitraglyphic process.
Images courtesy University of Washington.

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