The Future of 3D Printing Materials According to HP – Glass

HP – widely known for its decades of extensive R&D work in the tech field – has shed some light on its views about the world to come. Not surprisingly, 3D technology in its many forms and faces hogs a major share of that illumination. The company’s Princeton based research unit, HP Labs, is central to its engagement with innovation, being behind such household names as scientific calculators and thermal inkjet printers. Therefore any news from this team has a high degree of authority behind it.

HP Labs has several projects based on three-dimensional developments, such as an experimental system for 3D reconstruction to be used with future mobile devices, where the process is “guided by a quality feedback measure that takes into account the systematic uncertainties inherent in real-time depth sensors”. In a nutshell, the process involves combining a laptop with a Kinect sensor, which are then used to record the desired environment. The data is then sent to a dedicated server and sent back as a detailed viewable 3D map. Not exactly something that hasn’t been showcased already in some form or another by other companies – even in the mobile field – but these implementations have not necessarily been up to par as of yet.

Glass sample with sodium silicate solution
Glass sample with sodium silicate solution

The second larger theme surrounding the HP Labs’ 3D projects involves 3D printers – particularly the ever-growing issue of sustainability regarding materials for 3D printing. Now as Filabot and other similar projects consider recycling of 3DP materials or giving the user the possibility to create printable materials out of other suitable materials found at home, the topic is certainly a hot one. HP suggests one solution for this to be glass, which is a material not often mentioned with 3DP tech. The main project in this area is called RAGNAROK – an acronym for ‘Research on Advancing Glass & Non-organic Applications to Recreate Objects & Kinetics’. Bit of a mouthful, but the explanation behind it is a rational one: according to HP, “Glass is easy to recycle and environmentally friendly. Glass is inexpensive but looks precious; it’s pleasant to the touch and is so familiar that customers won’t be disappointed by its fragility”.

Glass samples made from different average particle sizes
Glass samples made from different average particle sizes

This is embryonic — 3D printed glass is still only at a research level, with early attempts by the project team having failed — but it points to the future and hopefully we will see some actual quality results from this project soon. The undeniable tech authority behind HP, coming from decades of successful innovations, it’s now something that all of the companies operating in the 3D printing field should at least take into consideration.

For further reading on 3D printing using glass, the full (short) paper – titled 3D Printing of transparent glass – can be read from the HP Labs’ source link below.

Source: PC Pro, HP Labs

All images: HP Labs

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