Earlier this week, researchers at MIT unveiled a new process called G3DP — a method that allows for the creation of complex 3D glass structures. This breakthrough will allow 3D printing to achieve another level of possibilities, for example, creating fiber optic cables that can allow data to be transferred more efficiently. According to one of the project’s lead researchers Neri Oxman, “Now [we can] consider printable optoelectronics, or the possibility of combining optical fibers for high-speed data transmission by light, combined within glass printed building facades.” Additionally, there are “significant implications for all things glass: [such as] aerodynamic building facades optimized for solar gain.”
Despite this, 3D printing is still notoriously slow, and traditional (but modern) glass production techniques still trumps it in speed. But in terms of creating more complex structures and shapes, G3DP can herald a new era of potential. There are no commercial plans for the process yet, but you can check out some 3D printed glass structures as an exhibit at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York in 2016.