MIT's Mediated Matter Group unveiled its creation of a method it calls G3DP (Glass 3-D Printing) which makes it possible to form glass in the same manner that plastic 3-D products are made. The project was accomplished in collaboration with MIT's Glass Lab. The process involves an additive manufacturing platform with dual heated chambers.
The upper chamber is a "Kiln Cartridge," capable of operating up to 1900°F, while the lower chamber works to harden the glass through a heat-then-cool process.
This 3-D printer does not produce glass from scratch, but rather works with a pre-existing substance, then layering and building out fantastical shapes like a robot glassblower, Gizmodo reports.
Researchers behind the project see a lot of uses for the breakthrough.
Neri Oxman, one of the project leaders, say that the discovery can help create fiber optic cables that can transmit data more efficiently.
"Now [we can] consider printable optoelectronics, or the possibility of combining optical fibers for high-speed data transmission by light, combined within glass printed building facades. It also hold significant implications for all things glass: aerodynamic building facades optimized for solar gain," Oxman said, according to Mashable.
The team also outlines why the process can go beyond glass sculpting: the precision the machine is able to work at means there's potential applications in product and architectural design as well, according to the paper scheduled to be released in the September 2015 issue of 3-D Printing and Additive Manufacturing.