Over the last couple of years we have seen 3D printing progress at an incredibly rapid rate. One of the areas which excites us the most is the 3D printing material’s space where new materials are being utilized as a print medium nearly every week. What started out as ABS and PLA, a few different types of metal powders, and ordinary photosensitive resin, has quickly grown to include hundreds of new, interesting, innovative materials. From wood and metal composites, to clay, food, and everything in between, new materials are what will drive 3D printing towards mainstream adoption.
When printing with a typical FDM/FFF 3D printer, one is typically limited to a range of materials based on the heat that the hotend can put off. While PLA is the easiest material to print with because of its low melting point, as the heating capabilities of a hotend progress, other materials such as ABS, nylon, polycarbonate, PEEK and more are all possible. Most printers’ extruders are limited to achieving a temperature anywhere from 180-325°C. When additional heat capabilities are available, additional materials will be compatible with that given printer.
With all the incredible materials currently being discovered and utilized, one material which is used everyday in hundreds of manufacturing facilities, glass, is still unable to be 3D printed via an extrusion based machine. That’s until today!
This morning a small Israeli company called Micron3DP, who is known for their 3D printer extruders, hotends and other components, announced a breakthrough in glass 3D printing.
“Micron3DP’s R&D Department is experimenting with a new and exciting advanced glass 3D Printing method,” Eran Gal-Or, R&D Manager of Micron3DP explained to 3DPrint.com this morning. “Micron3DP made a successful 3D printing test and although efforts have been made in the past by other companies to print with this medium, this is the first time that glass has been printed in liquid hot form – and Micron has accomplished it by means of its innovative way of 3D printing in an extremely hot extruder.”
Micron3DP 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. These are incredibly high temperatures to be working with, but as you can see from the images above and below, they’ve been able to print multiple, rather intricate objects in a variety of different colored glasses. The glass printed in liquid form, in a similar way in which molten thermoplastics are printed on a Cartesian-based machine. It then rapidly cools and hardens prior to the next layer being printed on top. This process continues until an entire object has been printed. The end-product has a similar layered appearance as any object printed using an FDM/FFF process.
This new method, once perfected, may open the door to a variety of new 3D printing applications within the art industry, medicine, aerospace, security, architecture, and more. We are told that Micron3DP is currently seeking investors who are interested in helping them further the technology involved within these new processes, and who wish to capitalize on the ‘next HOT area” within the 3D printing space.
The work they have done is quite impressive, and it will be interesting to see where they take this method of printing next. Let us know your thoughts on Micron3DP’s latest success in the 3D printed glass forum thread on 3DPB.com.