When it comes to some of the more unusual advancements in additive manufacturing techniques – including a shelter crafted from silk worms – MIT’s Mediated Matter Group takes the cake.
The group – which is led by 3D printing visionary Neri Oxman at MIT’s Media Lab – focuses on “Nature-inspired Design and Design-inspired Nature” through a number of projects that explore the intersection of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science and synthetic biology with the goal of applying that knowledge to design across scales from the micro scale to the building scale.
For their latest project, the group collaborated with MIT’s Glass Lab to develop G3DP – an additive manufacturing platform designed to print optically transparent glass.
Based on a stacked dual-heated chamber concept, the process makes use of an upper chamber which acts as a “Kiln Cartridge” while the lower, cooler chamber aides in annealing the final structures. According to the group, the Kiln Kartridge operates at approximately 1900°F and funnels the material through an alumina-zircon-silica nozzle along a determined path.
“Ancient yet modern, enclosing yet invisible, glass was first created in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago. Precise recipes for its production – the chemistry and techniques – often remain closely guarded secrets. Glass can be molded, formed, blown, plated or sintered; its formal qualities are closely tied to techniques used for its formation,” says the group.
“The project synthesizes modern technologies, with age-old established glass tools and technologies producing novel glass structures with numerous potential applications.”