This Fast 3D Printing Technology Creates Furnitures in a Tank Full of Gel

Kathleen Villaluz

Milano Design Week 2017 hosted the unveiling of a new, innovative 3D printing experimental process called Rapid Liquid Printing. This project is a joint effort between MIT's Self-Assembly Lab, global furniture brand Steelcase, and award-winning product designer Christophe Guberan.

Table cloth material produced using rapid liquid printing

[Image Source: Steelcase]

Rapid Liquid Printing

Rapid Liquid Printing is a breakthrough 3D printing technology that physically brings in together 3D space within a gel suspension, and allows for the creation of large-scale, bespoke products made with real-world materials. This type of 3D printing process is the first development attempt to combine industrial materials with high-speed printing that is controlled with precision to produce large-scale products.

Breakthroughs in 3D printing technology are important as it could well be the future of manufacturing, however, large-scale production has not taken off yet for 3D printing because of the significant limitations of the process. First of all, the speed at which current 3D printers are too slow for industrial scale compared to injection molding, casting, and milling. Large objects are also extremely difficult to produce using 3D printers, so the scale of manufacturing industrial products is limited. Moreover, the materials that are being used for 3D printing are usually low-quality compared to other high-end materials. So, the researchers at the MIT Self-Assembly Lab has taken all of these limitations into account and developed the Rapid Liquid Printing process. This new 3D printing technology is fast-producing, calibrated for large-scale production, and uses real-world and industrial-grade materials.

MIT's Rapid Liquid Printing in a 3D gel suspension

[Image Source: MIT's Self-Assembly Lab]

Steelcase's role and visions

Steelcase has collaborated with the MIT researchers and designer Christophe Guberan to explore the future of personalizing furniture and seek opportunities for innovative customization. In order to enhance business and market output, organizations are realizing that improving the workplace is a great solution to improve working conditions. This can be achieved through customization of furniture which would give individuals a sense of belonging, promote self-expression, and authenticity. This will greatly help in delivering a more human-centered environment.

Customized table using rapid liquid printing

[Image Source: Steelcase]

MIT's Self-Assembly Lab founder, Skylar Tibbits, expresses a positive attitude towards working with Steelcase.

"Industry partners are really important for us. They bring insight, challenges, relevance and domain expertise that we don’t have".

In the Milano Design Week, The MIT team and designer Christophe Guberan exhibited the experimental process that went into creating the bespoke Bassline table top (pictured above). Tibbits said that the printing process of the intricate design took around 28 minutes. Another experimental process was able to print a structure in just 10 minutes whereas conventional 3D printing would have taken around 50 minutes to complete.

Bespoke table top using Rapid Liquid Printing

[Image Source: Steelcase]

What's in store for the team

Even if this breakthrough Rapid Liquid Printing process is only an experiment, for now, it proves that the potential for using a specific class of materials in the future can have similar properties to that of real-world materials.

The joint effort between Steelcase and MIT will continue to research on materials, scale and enhanced printing processes. Furthermore, discovering the optimal product or object to print is key to taking advantage of this new and innovative process.

Range of products that can be printed with Rapid Liquid Printing

[Image Source: SelfAssemblyLab/MIT]

Yuka Hiyoshi, a Steelcase senior industrial designer, expresses his design perspectives on the Rapid Liquid Printing technology.

"As a designer, what’s most fascinating and unique about Rapid Liquid Printing is the line quality of the print. It’s soft, almost organic. It evokes images of brushstrokes or the branches of plants. The printing speed is very impressive. In the far future, large scale objects could be printed in minutes instead of days. Also, it’s not limited to typical 3D printing material making the technology very desirable from a design perspective".

Sources: MIT's Self-Assembly Lab, Steelcase

SEE ALSO: Adidas Unveils the First-Ever 3D Printed Sneaker It Will Mass Produce

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