The big news this week was clearly Shapeways surprise announcement: they now provide glass as print material!
Glass printing has been the subject of much investigation and experimentation this year, and now it appears that Shapeways has made enough progress to offer commercial 3D printing using it. Even better, the glass used is recycled - and you can recycle the prints as well.
The process is similar to what we've seen in prior experiments: an ultra-fine glass powder is fused with a binder layer by layer, followed by kiln-firing to melt the glass bits into a rigid state in a Venus-like +750C oven.
The new material costs USD$5.99 per cc, which is mid-way between their inexpensive materials (USD$1-3 for acrylics and sandstone) and expensive (USD$10 for stainless steel). The material is apparently yet another Shapeways "experiment":
The material is made from recycled soda-lime glass, the fine glass powder is sintered together and then fired in a kiln. The material is porous, opaque and fragile. The material feels a bit coarse to the touch. The glass prints can be best used for objects such as centerpieces, decorative platters and other design objects for the home.
The result is not pure transparent glass. It's sufficiently opaque that Shapeways names the material "Milky White Matte Glass", and that's precisely what it looks like. But it is glass, and that's a great step forward. We're imagining all sorts of interesting objects that are better suited for this new glass medium.
It's not quite the transparent glass you might be seeking, but we think this is a very useful addition to the every-increasing list of Shapeways materials. When will we see "Clear Shiny Glass"?