As we post this piece about rapid prototyping glass walls, the team here can’t help but think of the old saying, “Those who in live in houses with glass walls, shouldn’t throw rocks.” So without further adieu, please enjoy.
There’s no doubt that you have obviously heard of all the different & truly amazing things being 3D printed today. Starting from car parts, to human organs, food and plants, there is almost nothing that 3D printing hasn’t touched upon, and it goes without saying that that is because of how much more efficient rapid prototyping is compared to the traditional manufacturing methods. And so, just like all the other things, even glass has been 3D printed, and with the use of 3D printing, glass can now be molded and shaped in such ways that the previous archaic method of producing glass manually couldn’t even dream of.
With all the different “inks” that could be used to 3D print the various different parts, the material for printing transparent glass is currently one of the newest things out there. Although 3D printing glass was not impossible before, it never came out transparent, the products produced were always opaque in nature. Molten glass can finally be printed through a nozzle for the first time ever. This process occurs by building the glass object in layers. This rapid prototyping machine is called the G3DP, which basically causes the more than 4500 year old method of glassmaking to be simplified and updated, causing its possibilities to expand limitlessly.
Not only that, the newest addition to 3D printing glass has to be the fact that people can now use rapid prototyping to create glass walls for their house! Yes, 3D printing has come a long way since last year or even the year before, as the newest innovations continue to surprise the world.
This method was introduced to the world by 2 Russian developers, who were aiming to use this 3D printing technology and take it to another level, which they did. They were eyeing the construction industry and wondering how they could implement rapid prototyping in such a context. As we all know very well, 3D printing has been used in all sectors and construction has not been exempt from that equation, since we have experienced the likes of 3D printed houses over the years.
These developers used 3D printing to ensure that the glass walls would be durable, with the use of a glass melting furnace that is compact, which acts as an extrusion unit. This ingenious idea is still under construction and the developers are still figuring out environmentally friendly and cost saving methods to pull their plan off. The researchers plan on replacing concrete with glass, and although this may sound impossible to some, they explain its features and why glass would be a much better alternative in many ways than concrete, especially when it is 3D printed.
Rapid prototyping concrete is actually more expensive, while glass will be cheaper and easier, and all that will be needed will be thin sheets, which can easily be 3D printed to any form. Not only does molten glass have good setting characteristics when it hardens, it also hardens fast and has a high viscosity level. Glass is also a lot more flexible compared to concrete in that the density of the glass structure can be controlled. The walls that are multi layered can have high quality finishes in terms of density, surface structure, thermal conductivity, color, and light reflection among other things.
These possibilities give architects and builders a world of possibilities. What’s more, the filament used to 3D print these glass structures is completely eco-friendly, since the materials used to make the filaments can be found everywhere in the world: silica sand. Not only that, it is also extremely adaptable and cheap when combined with the other materials included in the filament.
The complete rapid prototyping process will reveal a glass wall that is resistant to mold, humidity, decay, is efficient in terms of energy saving when producing, and which will require low maintenance. The researchers are planning for this to be a process in which the glass furnace will be constantly fed with raw materials. The extrusion unit is the furnace itself, which gives it the flexibility to be either completely electric, or part gas heated, part electric.
With a setup as such, any part of the house could be easily printed, including both the floors and the walls of course. A plasma torch would be used to give the end result a smooth finish. These researchers also plan on using different glass furnaces with different nozzle shapes and internal structures within a single setup, which will then allow them to print a variety of different things, ranging from printing foam glass to only casting wall layers with a variety of colors and finishes.
Additionally, this setup isn’t something completely different from the standard conventions of 3D printing and can be easily modified to suit the construction needs. With such a new and innovative idea, surely these researchers will be able to convince people around the world that glass is a good enough alternative for concrete. With their plans on the way, the researchers are now trying to begin a pilot program to try and build walls. Who knows, maybe this signals the beginning of a new rivalry between glass and concrete!
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