Human/machine collaboration to 3D print glass

Glass is one of the oldest artificially made materials and still widely used. Like many other materials, it is possible to 3D print the material, but because the high melting point of glass, you need high temperatures to do so. To merge traditional glass craft with human/machine interaction, artist Stefanie Pender developed a Glass Fused Filament Deposition Modelling process. For this, she used a robotic printing arm by her own design, equipped with an oxygen/propane dual flame welding torch.

According to Pender, “the sensibilities gained through hands-on experience provide sophisticated comprehension of material behaviour, physical properties and responsiveness to environmental conditions.” This led her to try to merge traditional craft proficiency with contemporary technology to expand the boundaries of material processes.

The main question of Pender’s research, how can the nuanced behaviours of a human operator be translated to data for the purpose of designing customized hardware and software? To answer this question, she developed novel fabrication strategies that exploit inherent physical phenomena accessed through the digital automation of process.

The printer Pender designed is a filament based glass printer. You can read about the entire process here.

To create the glass objects, an oxygen/propane dual flame welding torch at the end of the printing nozzle melts the 0.5 to 1 millimetre thick glass filament that comes out of the head at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit (1093 degrees Celsius). Molten glass falling onto a surface creates a sequence of sewing machine patterns, which shape depend on the height of the thread, the temperature, and the speed at which the printer head moves.

The robotic printing arm Pender developed is not a “plug and play machine”. While the device can be programmed, a human operator has to make adjustments during the printing process, creating a human/machine interaction.

Photos: Stefanie Pender