3D Printing In Ceramics - The Vitraglyphic Process
Engineers and artists working at the Solheim Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory at the University of Washington have developed a way to create glass objects by "printing" them with a conventional 3-D printer.
(Printing ceramics video)
In a typical powder-based 3-D printing system, a thin layer of powder is spread over a platform and software directs an inkjet printer to deposit droplets of binder solution only where needed. The binder reacts with the powder to bind the particles together and create a 3-D object.
Glass powder doesn't readily absorb liquid, however, so the approach used with ceramic printing had to be radically altered.
"Using our normal process to print objects produced gelatin-like parts when we used glass powders," said mechanical engineering graduate student Grant Marchelli, who led the experimentation. "We had to reformulate our approach for both powder and binder."
By adjusting the ratio of powder to liquid the team found a way to build solid parts out of powdered glass purchased from Spectrum Glass in Woodinville, Wash. Their successful formulation held together and fused when heated to the required temperature.
Taken together, the different 3D printing technologies are like the Biltong life form from Philip K. Dick's 1956 short story Pay for the Printer.