Glass printing is, as you can imagine, a pretty heady process. It requires a lot of heat and a lot of luck and a general acceptance that your print will look awful simply because the glass will cool unevenly. Once you get over all of those things, however, you’re ready to rock and roll.
Researchers at Virginia Tech and the Rhode Island School of Design have created a system and lab for research into glass printing. The current system consists of an extruder that squirts molten glass out onto a ceramic tile. A cute little robotic arm moves the tile around to create layer after layer of shapes. The resulting objects aren’t very complex or high-resolution and it appears that the melting process is still primitive but hey – you’re 3D printing with glass.
“This research is an example of innovation that can occur at the intersection of art, design, technology, and science,” said Stefanie Pender, a glass artist at RISD. “Instead of a technology-driven approach, we can approach digital fabrication from a place of profound material understanding. This research is evidence that the traditional technical arts will not be replaced by digital fabrication, instead, the technical arts will help to drive and support the direction of future making.”
This sort of “artisanal” 3D printing is quite interesting in that it melds technology and art and offers a way to do some really interesting stuff with difficult materials.