Move over 3D printing, rapid liquid printing research looks promising for manufacturing.
Developed by MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and Steelcase, rapid liquid printing creates products in a liquid gel suspension, in a process that is somewhat similar to injection molding. It’s fast, and there are no particular limits to the size of the object that can be created this way. It’s also fascinating to watch.
According to the MIT website: “Compared with other techniques, we believe this is the first development to combine industrial materials with extremely fast print speeds in a precisely controlled process to yield large-scale products.”
These products can be printed in just a few minutes. The material is hardened via a chemical interaction with the gel.
The gel suspension eliminates the gravity challenges inherent in 3D printing (you don’t need supports) and the process does not require layer-by-layer printing.
“This means that a part can be printed quickly within the gel and then removed and simply washed off with water. The second is that the gel self-heals after the nozzle passes through,” said Skylar Tibbits, co-director of the lab in an interview with Wired. “This allows you to continuously move and print within the gel and not create tunnels or cavities which would fill up with printed material.”
The lab has been able to create products made of foam, plastic, rubber, and metal in the suspension. The process is best suited to larger objects; smaller items with high-resolution features would take longer to produce.
In a demonstration at the Furniture Fair in Milan, MIT used a meter-long tank to create a table top for Bassline—and did so in under 30 minutes.
You can watch the process in action in the video below.