Manufacturing Takes Another Giant Leap Forward: Rapid Liquid Printing

Manufacturers of all kinds have benefited from the rapid advancement in 3D printing technology in so many different ways. From rapid prototyping to end use components, the technology continues to move forward and show even more potential along the way. Now, manufacturers may soon have another incredible piece of technology at their disposal, Rapid Liquid Printing.

Rapid Liquid Printing takes many of the core concepts from 3D Printing, also known as ‘additive manufacturing’ but the innovative new process addresses some of the drawbacks that are usually associated with 3D printing. Instead of the conventional layered approach of standard 3D printing systems, this new innovative process injects 3D printed materials into a gel vat which provides support as the shape sets.

This incredible development has the potential to revolutionize 3D printing and the manufacturers that use it. Most 3D printing operations require support structures which calls for additional steps in the production process. Manufacturers must remove the excess material in order to create the finished product. With Rapid Liquid Printing, the second the component or product hardens, what comes out of the gel is a completed part.

The new process was developed through a collaboration between Steelcase and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab. One of the most incredible aspects of this new process is that it will be able to print stronger materials than traditional 3D printers. Furthermore, the team conducted an experiment with their process versus a different 3D printing process. They were able to print a structure in 10 minutes with Rapid Liquid Printing and that same design took 50 hours to manufacturer using the alternative 3D printing method. The time savings made possible by this technology could have a profound impact on the future of modern manufacturing.

“As a designer, what’s most fascinating and unique about Rapid Liquid Printing is the line quality of the print.” Yuka Hiyoshi, turnstone senior industrial designer said. He continued, “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 a typical 3D printing material making the technology very desirable from a design perspective.”

Another innovative technique that is unique to Rapid Liquid Printing is the two-part mixing processes. This allows the material to be chemically-cured instead of using light or temperature to set the material.

As of now, MIT will continue their research to perfect the technology. They are looking to expand the materials compatible with the process. Self Assembly Lab founder, Skylar Tibbits said that they have already been able to use plastics, foams, rubbers and metals. Using metals in a system such as this could be the next step for the modern manufacturing industry’s adoption of 3D printing technologies.

Be sure to check back on Manufacturing Talk Radio soon for the latest developments throughout the world of manufacturing.

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