Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab
Glass Lab, MIT


-Additive manufacturing of optically transparent glass

Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab Glass Lab, MIT

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, floated or sintered; its formal qualities are closely tied to techniques used for its formation.

Posted 1 September 2015

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From the discovery of core-forming process for bead-making in ancient Egypt, through the invention of the metal blow pipe during Roman times, to the modern industrial Pilkington process for making large-scale flat glass; each new breakthrough in glass technology occurred as a result of prolonged experimentation and ingenuity, and has given rise to a new universe of possibilities for uses of the material. This show unveils a first of its kind optically transparent glass printing process called G3DP.

3D printed glass structure (Image Credit: Chikara Inamura)

Falling Fluid glass printed object (Image Credit: Andy Ryan)

Glass 3D printing process (Image Credit: Steven Keating)

Caustic patterns of a 3D printed glass structure (Image Credit: Andy Ryan)

G3DP is an additive manufacturing platform designed to print optically transparent glass. This process enables considerable variation of shape and resulting optical properties, as well as the use of a large range of colors with varying degrees of opacity. The platform is based on a dual heated chamber concept. The upper chamber acts as a kiln cartridge while the lower chamber serves to anneal the structures. The kiln cartridge operates at approximately 1900°F and can contain sufficient material to build a single architectural component. The molten material is funneled through an alumina. The print annealer avoids thermal shock in the printed components. The project synthesizes modern technologies, with age-old established glass tools and technologies producing novel glass structures with numerous potential applications.

Illuminated 3D printed glass structures on display at the MIT Media Lab (Image Credit: Andy Ryan)

The G3DP project was created in collaboration between the Mediated Matter group at the MIT Media Lab, the Mechanical Engineering Department, the MIT Glass Lab and Wyss Institute. Researchers include John Klein, Michael Stern, Markus Kayser, Chikara Inamura, Giorgia Franchin, Shreya Dave, James Weaver, Peter Houk and Prof. Neri Oxman. 
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A selection of Glass pieces will appear in an exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2016. 
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The full text version of Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass appears in the September 2015 issue (Vol. 2, Issue 3) of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing (3DP+), under the Editorial leadership of Skylar Tibbits, Director of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab. Details and complete information on 3DP+ can be found at
The patent “Additive Manufacturing of Optically Transparent Glass” was filed on April 25 of 2014.

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