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MIT researchers developed a new system for 3D printing transparent, colored, and strong glass structures from digital files. From MIT News:

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In operation, the device’s hopper, and a nozzle through which the glass is extruded to form an object, are maintained at temperatures of about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit, far higher than the temperatures used for other 3-D printing. The stream of glowing molten glass from the nozzle resembles honey as it coils onto a platform, cooling and hardening as it goes.

One challenge the researchers faced was keeping the filament of glass hot enough so the next layer of the structure would adhere to it, but not so hot that the structure would collapse into a shapeless lump. They ended up producing three separate components that can independently be heated to the required temperatures: the upper reservoir for the stock of molten glass, the nozzle at the bottom of that chamber, and a lower chamber where the printed object is built up…

“We can design and print components with variable thicknesses and complex inner features — unlike glassblowing, where the inner features reflect the outer shape,” (Media Lab professor Neri) Oxman explains. For example, she adds, “We can control solar transmittance. … Unlike a pressed or blown-glass part, which necessarily has a smooth internal surface, a printed part can have complex surface features on the inside as well as the outside, and such features could act as optical lenses.”

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Source boingboing

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