What is Rapid Liquid Printing – 3D Printing Technology?

Rapid Liquid Printing - MIT

What is Rapid Liquid Printing?

While we are seeing more and more companies step up and adopt 3D Printing, engineers have already got at work to improve on this technology, further. 3D Printing has, in a way, completely transformed the manufacturing industry making it much more customized as well as personalized. But there have been some limitations even with 3D Printing, owing to which engineers have looked elsewhere for ways to overcome those limitations.

The Self Assembly Lab at MIT, in collaboration with Steelcase, a company known for furniture and interior design, has presented a new process called Rapid Liquid Printing.

Limitations of 3D Printing Technology

First of all, we need to go through the reasons that led to the teams at MIT and Steelcase to use the best of their resources to bring out improvements in the existing 3D Printing technology.

  • 3D Printing, while bringing in a tremendous share of customizability, accessibility and personalization has not been able to lap up on the speed factor. When compared to other conventional processes such as casting, injection molding, milling, etc., 3D Printing turns out to be too slow.
  • While 3D Printing has made many advances in technology, most of these advances have been limited by the fact that they were on small-sized objects. It works very well for the small components but not so for the large ones. This issue of limitation by scale has been one important factor against 3D Printing.
  • The last limitation is of the quality of the final products produced. When compared with industrial materials, the quality is often found to be lower.

All of these limitations have been targeted and tackled by Rapid Liquid Printing, the technology we will be discussing in detail in our further sections.

Diving into Rapid Liquid Printing

As we have already gone over what limitations caused engineers to work towards a better solution, Rapid Liquid Printing offers extremely fast, large-scale products with good quality.

Basic Technology:

While 3D Printing depended on a layer-by-layer extrusion method, Rapid Liquid Printing takes a different turn by using a viscous gel. This gel, kept in a tank or vat, allows you to draw shapes which are then chemically cured into the solid product you desire. This final product can then be removed from the vat easily. This process enables building up of a material to be much quicker than any other method.

Source: Steelcase

Take the example of the top of this Bassline table. Using Rapid Liquid Printing, it was formed within 28 minutes. Add to that, no large amounts of post-processing work were required.

Source: 3DPrintingIndustry

Transcending Boundaries: Rapid Liquid Technology completely transforms the manufacturing process with its advances over regular 3D Printing.

  • At the start of this article, we discussed how 3D Printing had added the aspects of personalization and customization into the manufacturing process. Rapid Liquid Printing takes that even further ahead. It allows a much higher level, as well as easier product customization in comparison.
  • 3D Printing relies very strongly on support structures during the process of Manufacturing. Rapid Liquid Printing replaces the need for said support structures with the use of its viscous gel which acts as a vacuum that keeps the product suspended till the time the product is removed.
  • This ability to print and build products that are even more complicated in a quicker and convenient way gives Rapid Liquid Printing an upper hand over regular 3D Printing. It would clearly be useful for several industries to print models that were not possible with current technologies or print them at a greater pace.

Future Scope: Rapid Liquid Printing, with all its advances to the 3D Printing technology, can also monumentally contribute to the development of 4D Printing. If we combine the smart materials that we use in 4D Printing with the processes and methodologies of Rapid Liquid Printing, there is a possibility of developing objects that can transform the current landscape of manufacturing.

All of this depends a lot on how 4D Printing fares in its developments, and how cheap and readily available can gels become. At this time, we are dealing with Silicone which, though common, is very expensive given its quality and the requirement of high amounts of energy in its manufacturing process. There may be several problems, but they can act as one of the potential future scopes of these two technologies.

Conclusion

It is important to talk about and appreciate the strides made by the combined efforts of Self Assembly Lab, MIT and the team at Steelcase. Rapid Liquid Printing is a step, maybe multiple steps ahead into the future. We hope for the best as the engineers continue to develop this technology. Its greater availability in future will surely be a boon for all the industries involved, and not just the furniture industry.

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