G3DP V2: High Fidelity Additive Manufacturing of Transparent Glass Structures across Scales

The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab


Transparent and structurally sound, glass has played a significant role in the evolution of product and architectural design across multiple disciplinary domains and throughout the ages. Blowing, pressing, and forming methods-amongst others-have aimed at achieving increased glass performance and functionality. However, abilities to tune its optical and mechanical properties at high spatial resolution in manufacturing have, overall, remained an end without a means.

This research presents a high fidelity, large-scale, additive manufacturing technology for optically transparent glass combined with demonstrations of novelty – fully transparent glass structures at architectural scale. At the MIT Media Lab, the Mediated Matter Group began developing a series of novel additive manufacturing technologies for molten glass in 2014. The latest enabling technology introduces a fundamental restructuring of the platform’s architecture and process control informed by the material properties and behaviors of silicate glass. The platform provides a digitally integrated thermal control system across the entire glass forming processes, combined with a novel 4-axis motion control system enabling a high fidelity manufacturing process capable of producing glass structures with tunable, yet predictable mechanical and optical properties. The material fundamentally drives how the machine is used, and in return, the machine can change how the glass is formed and used. In order to evaluate the full capability of this technology, a series of three-meter tall glass structures were designed, engineered, and constructed. Harnessing its optical transparency in conjunction with the variable cross sections along the full length of each structure, an interactive lighting system was designed and integrated; producing large scale ‘interactive paintings’ of kaleidoscopiccaustics. These large-scale novel glass structures were exhibited, for the first time, at the Milan Design Week in April 2017


The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab
Director: Prof. Neri Oxman
Project Lead: Chikara Inamura
Project Team: Michael Stern, Daniel Lizardo, Tal Achituv, Tomer Weller, Owen Trueblood, Nassia Inglessis, Girogia Franchin, James Weaver, and Peter Houk
Previous Team: John Klein, Markus Kayser, and Shreya Dave
Project Associates: Andrew Magdanz, Susan Shapiro, David J. Benyosef, Mary Ann Babula, Forrest Whitcher, Robert Phillips, and Neils LaWhite
Project Collaborators: Pentagram, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, and Almost Perfect Glass

Photo: The Mediated Matter Group, MIT Media Lab

The Mediated Matter Group (US) focuses on Nature-inspired Design and Design-inspired Nature. We conduct research at the intersection of computational design, digital fabrication, materials science, and synthetic biology and apply that knowledge to design across scales from the micro scale to the building scale. We create biologically inspired, informed, and engineered design fabrication tools and technologies and structures, aiming to enhance the relation between natural and man-made environments. Our research field, entitled Material Ecology, integrates computational form-finding strategies with biologically inspired fabrication. Neri Oxman, Architect, Designer, and Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab, heads the Mediated Matter Group.