The range and variety of materials as options for 3D printing have been steadily increasing the past years. Currently heading this list are thermoplastics and metal alloys. People, though, have generally stayed away from glass as a material when it comes to 3D printing as this has proven to be quite tricky and even difficult to manipulate. Even it its liquefied state, it takes a lot of expertise, experience, and training to successfully meld glass into more complex figures or designs. For these reasons, glass-based additive manufacturing is somewhat left behind by other materials.
The situation may soon change quickly as the collaboration between Virginia Tech and Rhode Island School of Design has resulted in the creation of the country’s first Collaborative Glass Robotics Laboratory. This collaboration is sure to take glass manufacturing to a different level as designers, artists, and researchers can tinker with their designs using robotics. The technologies offered in the lab could mean great things for everyone involve, including those who dabble in glass as a material for 3D printing.
The Glass Robotics Lab came into existence two years ago due to the efforts of Professors Nathan King of Virginia Tech and Stefanie Pender of Rhode Island School of Design. Their collaboration, though, is set to undergo extensive expansion as researchers from both schools are keen on doing more research for a profound understanding of glass and how it can be better manipulated. The expansion should improve already notable achievements such as using robotically actuated molds for design and manufacturing as well as the utilization of robotics for glass-based 3D printing.
Presently, the lab will focus on the use of robotic arms based on a new computational design that will allow researchers the ability to experiment with glasses in various states. With technologies at their disposal, researchers can actually affect glass manipulation and manufacturing in ways that have never been done before. This ability to customize the way glass is manipulated opens the door to a variety of possibilities when it comes to forming designs.
The researchers are also placing emphasis on better understanding of glass manipulation as a meeting point between arts and designs instead of milking it for commercial purposes. They make it a point of using cutting edge technology for the understanding of glass in every sense as opposed to a purely technology-based enhancement and viewpoint.
The bigger and better Glass Robotics Laboratory will operate in Blacksburg, Virginia under the auspices of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ Research and Demonstration Facility. Besides the current research and development going on, the lab will also play host to a large number of the best glass furnaces and ovens anyone can find.
Hopefully, the expansion and the ongoing development will further advance their never-before seen glass manipulation and fabrication success. The innovations achieved by the collaborative efforts of numerous people show that there is indeed untapped potential when the fields of science, technology, architecture, and design all converge.
Although the 3D printing community may not be able to get first-hand experience with this latest development any time soon, the innovative research should be exceptional in the long run for everyone.