PP+S Blog
03 May 2019

The new 3D printing Technology: Rapid Liquid Printing

3D printing has been hailed as the pinnacle of the incoming future. As of 2019, there are 10 types of 3D printing technologies in the market. With the most common types being fused deposition modelling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Processing (DLP), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

However, there seems to be limitations in utilising such technologies, the common features that modern commercially viable 3D printing technologies lack are:.

  1. Speed (Too slow)
  2. Size (Too small)
  3. Materials (Poor quality)

Therefore, engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Steelcase plan to tackle such issues with their latest innovation: Rapid Liquid Printing.

In collaboration with Skylar Tibbits’ Self Assembly Lab at MIT, Steelcase has unveiled a new method of 3D printing called “rapid liquid printing”. Especially for a furniture and interior design company like Steelcase, this technique offers a process that competes with the speed, size, and materials available to existing 3D printing methods. By using 3D printing Steelcase hopes to unlock the potential of truly personalized interior design. (Source)

How does it work?

Rapid liquid printing physically draws in 3D space in a liquid gel a hair gel or hand-sanitiser) suspension and enables the precise creation of customised products. While 3D printing calls for layer-by-layer creation, Rapid liquid printing works through direct injection into the gel, physically drawing the objects into existence. (Source)

This is compared to the conventional layer by layer printing, which according to the creators, are much more time consuming (considering gravitational issues as well)This means that a part can be printed quickly within the gel and then removed and simply washed off with water.



Source: Self-Assembly Lab, MIT / Christophe Guberan / Steelcase

The gel self-heals as well after the nozzle pass through. This allows you to continuously move and print within the gel and not create tunnels or cavities which would fill up with printed material." So far, it takes roughly an hour to mix the gel, and after it's produced it works immediately to suspend the printed materials. And if the printed material is too dense, the gel’s composition may need to be altered.

So far so good, materials such as plastics, foams, rubbers and even metal are able to suspend in the gel to ensure the printing process goes well.

Who is it for?

Well, as 3D printing allows a variety of products to be made, the people that can benefit from this are furniture designers and people who want to mass produce moderately sized items.

Limitations

Of course for every innovation, there is bound to be limitations. Firstly, the technology is still under prototype. Hence, it is not out there in the market. So even you want to start printing with RLP, it is still not available. Secondly, we are unsure about the pricing of the gel, 3D printing resins might still be an economical option compared to having both gel and printed materials. And lastly, the size of the machine and the quantity of the gel still plays a huge role in how big your end product would be.

Conclusion

With every new technology pushing the frontiers of our capabilities, we are able to enjoy the benefits of it. In the near future, Rapid Liquid Printing might be in the mainstream market soon, and with the scalability of technologies every passing year, Rapid Liquid Printing might be commercially viable soon.

But while waiting for that to happen, why not keep a lookout for current printing trends? Head down to Print Pack and Sign Expo 2019, an exhibition held in Marina Bay Sands that covers everything regarding printing, signage and packaging services. With over 160+ exhibitors, you can never miss out on a supplier that can bring your brand to life.

Sign up as a visitor here, or as an exhibitor here.



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