And while previous 3D printing methods have used powdered glass and silica sand, a team of researchers led by Neri Oxman out of MIT's Mediated Matter Group has developed a 3D printer that extrudes molten glass.
Dubbed G3DP (Glass 3D Printing), the method is the first-of-its-kind optically transparent glass printing process that uses a fully functional material extrusion 3D printer. It essentially takes the ancient process of glassmaking developed some 4,500 years ago and updates it with 3D technology to produce an array of quite beautiful glass objects worthy of a Dale Chihuly exhibit.
The most common type of 3D printer – fused deposition modeling (FDM) – has been limited to using material in filament form due to its inability to handle materials that require a high melting point. Unfortunately, this limits the size and scale of the final product. Advantages of glass in additive manufacturing are its hardness, durability and optical qualities, as well as its affordability and availability, with cheap and abundant silica sand, soda ash and limestone the main ingredients.