Micron 3DP, a maker of extruders for 3D printing, has been exploring an exciting new area: 3D Printing with glass.
This exploration seems like a somewhat natural transition for the company. The “hot end” of the 3D printer is the part of the extruder assembly that literally melts the plastic which is then deposited in layers to make an object.
Many new materials have been appearing on the market, but they are typically mixtures of plastic that can melt at temperatures below 300 degrees Celsius. Micron has been toying with the ability to go to a much further extreme with this prototype which melts glass at a temperature of up to 1,640 C (2,984°F)!
While the prints may not look too impressive initially, keep in mind that there is currently no quality control on glass rods to ensure that they are the perfect diameter for constant extrusion. With this in mind, you can surely excuse the crude and clumpy results. If Micron 3DP finds the right partner for further development, we could begin to see a whole series of glass created specifically for its printing properties just as we’ve seen in plastic filaments.
Printing in glass could have several benefits. Assuming that there was no contamination from materials in the hot end itself, glass can be food safe and even be used in medical practices. Due to the much higher melting point, glass parts will not be susceptible to warping as plastic parts are.
While glass is fun to imagine, simply having an extruder set up, no matter how crude, that can melt things consistently at that temperature opens up a lot of possibilities. Some fine tuning on temperature and we may see some simple and crude metal printing come out of this as well.
Currently this system is only a prototype, but Micron3DP is seeking a partner to further develop and refine the idea for market.