Environment, Objects
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GLASS II – 3D printing glass structures at architectural scale

Created by the Mediated Matter Group and the MIT Media Lab and presented at the recent Milan Design Week, 2017, GLASS II is the group’s most recent work in the area of 3D printing optically transparent glass that allows tunability by geometrical and optical variation which drives form, transparency, color variation, reflection and refraction. The new work takes the process one step further, creating a high fidelity, large-scale, additive manufacturing technology for 3D printing optically transparent glass structures at architectural scale.

Optically transparent and structurally sound, glass has played a significant role in the evolution of product and architectural design across scales and disciplines, and throughout the ages . Glass processing methods—such as blowing, pressing, and forming—have aimed at achieving increased glass performance and functionality. Nonetheless, techniques and technologies enabling controlled tunability of its optical and mechanical properties at high spatial manufacturing resolution have remained an end without a means.

Named G3DP2, this enabling technology builds upon previous efforts for product scale applications. G3DP2 transcends its predecessor by restructuring the machine’s architecture and process control operations as informed by material properties and behaviors of silicate glass to 3D print building components with tunable and predictable mechanical and optical properties.

This new manufacturing platform includes a digitally integrated thermal control system—to accompany the various stages of glass forming—as well as a novel 4-axis motion control system permitting flow control, spatial accuracy and precision, and faster production rates with continuous deposition of up to 30kg of molten glass.

To demonstrate GLASS II’s capabilities, The Mediated Matter Group presented an installation for Milan Design Week that debuted at the Milan Triennale on April 4th, 2017.

The installation is comprised of a series of 3m-tall glass columns fully manufactured with the GLASS 2 platform. Each column’s unique and constantly changing surface is the result of continuous branching into multiple lobes to support its load. For each, a unique network of radial arrays made of arcs; to each, a unique caustic footprint corresponding with its mechanical properties. Given their geometric complexity and dynamic optical properties, the columns act as architecturally scaled lenses that can concentrate or disperse light from within and/or outside the glass surface.

Each column is also fitted with a dynamic internal lighting system—una stellina—programed to travel up and down the column generating a large caustic footprint with kaleidoscope-like patterns. Over space, each successive column introduces a more complex caustic envelope with accompanied—and subtle—shifts in sound frequencies. Over time, each column’s light position and intensity varies, resulting in changes to the surface area, sharpness, and intensity of the caustic patterns.

Project PageMediated Matter Group

Project Team: Chikara Inamura (project lead), Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Tal Achituv, Tomer Weller, Owen Trueblood, Nassia Inglessis, Giorgia Franchin, Kelly Donovan, Peter Houk, Prof. Neri Oxman (project and group director)

Project Associates: Andrea Magdanz, Susan Shapiro, David J. Benyosef, Mary Ann Babula, Forrest Whitcher, Robert Philips, Neils La White, Paula Aguilera, Jonathan Williams, Andy Ryan, Jeremy Flower.

Project Collaborators: The GLASS II installation was created by The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab in collaboration with Lexus for 2017 Lexus Design Awards YET Show at the Salone del Mobile, Milan, Italy. Additional collaborators include: Pentagram, Simson Gumpertz & Heger, Front Inc., MIT Central Machine Shop, Almost Perfect Glass (AKA APG).

  • Optically transparent and structurally sound, glass has played a significant role in the evolution of product and architectural design across scales and disciplines, and throughout the ages . Glass processing methods—such as blowing, pressing, and forming—have aimed at achieving increased glass performance and functionality. Nonetheless, techniques and technologies enabling controlled tunability of its optical and mechanical properties at high spatial manufacturing resolution have remained an end without a means.