Glass Mould Innovation Through Collaborative Research- Combining Studio Glass Knowledge with New Approaches in Digital Fabrication

Matthias, Gayle and Jorgensen, Tavs (2015) Glass Mould Innovation Through Collaborative Research- Combining Studio Glass Knowledge with New Approaches in Digital Fabrication. The Glass Art Society Journal, Chicago, Illinois, 2014. pp. 46-47. ISSN 0692267484

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Abstract / Summary


This presentation will describe a research project developed at Falmouth University, UK, which has established a new method of creating glass casting molds directly from 3D computer drawings. Such an approach opens up new creative opportunities as well as eliminating the need for physical mold patterns. It also presents a number of distinctive advantages compared with conventional molding methods.
The method developed is based on Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology, a process commonly known as “Rapid Prototyping” or “3D printing”.
The process is based on a concept where the inner part of the mold is printed on a 3D printer and through a particular post-processing method achieves increased strength and refractory capabilities,
The method is the result of collaborative research by Gayle Matthias and Tavs Jorgensen, and the project combines knowledge and skills established in studio glass practice with emerging digital fabrication technologies.


Over the last 5 years the creative use of digital fabrication technologies have developed dramatically. Although some of these processes (such as CNC water jet cutting) have been adopted by a number of glass artists, the field of creative glass in general has seen a relatively modest impact of these new technologies.
In other creative sectors the use of 3D printing has seen a rapid growth with open source initiatives such as the RepRap project having a dramatic impact. Some methods for 3D printing in glass have been developed but these have so far had significant limitations in terms of the geometries, sizes and materials that can be used - and a commercial service for 3D printing in glass (which was available via the Shapeways Company) has recently been withdrawn.
Research at University of Washington has also explored 3D printing with glass, both in terms of directly printed glass artifacts and also the production of printed refractory molds.
However, all of the above mentioned projects differ from the method that we have developed.

Project description and research approach:

We initiated the project in early 2010 as part of our work at the Autonomatic research group, Falmouth University, UK.
Matthias’ background for undertaking this work is her long career as a glass artist and university tutor in contemporary craft practice. During this career she has utilized a wide variety of kiln-formed glass techniques. In particular she has explored the ceramic shell molding technique in terms of glass casting - work that informed much of the early experiments of this project.
Jorgensen initially trained as a craft potter before becoming a designer in the ceramic industry. Latterly Jorgensen has focused his practice on academic research into new digital design and fabrication tools and has become a specialist in this field, although he also maintains a very active creative practice.

The project started as a series of open-ended creative explorations of the use of various 3D printing technologies in glass practice. Gradually the direction and focus of the project emerged from these initial experiments.
The project was given added impetus when we received sponsorship from the leading 3D printing company ZCorporation (now part of 3D Systems), and also the glass supplier, Gaffer Glass (NZ) – following the publication of some of our early results.

We view our position as creative practitioners undertaking research and innovation in an field that could previously have been seen as the preserve of specialist engineers, as one of the key element of the success of this project. We argue that this position enables us to contribute with different perspectives, knowledge bases and approaches in the innovation scenario.

We consider that another key element in the development of this molding method is the combination of our specialist knowledge of studio glass and digital fabrication technology.

Description of method and potential applications:

The method that we have developed is based on the widely available ZCorporation 3D printing technology, using the standard build medium (the ZP 150 powder) to build thin ‘inner mold skins’ which is then strengthened by the application of additional refractory materials. This enables the resulting molds to gain structural integrity to withstand the temperatures needed for glass investment casting.

The molds produced via this method are thin (6 - 12mm in total wall thickness) but very strong. Apart from eliminating the need for a physical mold pattern, the process has a number of other potential advantages compared with conventional molding approaches.
In particular the much-reduced mold wall thickness means that lower firing temperatures and shorter firing cycles can be used. The potential for using lower kiln casting temperatures opens up the possibility that a wider range of glass types can be used, and we are currently undertaking a series of promising tests with recycled lime-soda based glass.

Initially our main target sector for the method was the creative studio glass practitioners, but we have also received strong interest in the process from large-scale industrial glass producers.

Equally, we are also currently exploring the potential of developing the technique for a particular medical application concerning the creation of glass moulds for growing human tissue for reconstructive surgery. This work is due to be undertaken in collaboration with one the UK’s leading research hospitals. We see this development as evidence that the knowledge developed creative glass practice can be highly valuable in a wider innovation scenario, and a strong argument for exploring increased collaboration with practitioners from a wide range of fields.

Initial results from this project were been presented at the ‘Time Compression Technologies’ Conference and Expo in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, UK in October 2010 and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK in January 2012.

Item Type: Article
ISSN: 0692267484
Subjects: Arts > Craft
Technology > Digital Works
Arts > Glass
Courses by Department: The Falmouth School of Art > Contemporary Crafts
Depositing User: Gayle Matthias
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2017 15:32
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 16:31


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