MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, headed by Skylar Tibbits and Jared Laucks, is no stranger to 3D printing innovations. This group of researchers has had its fingers on the pulse of additive manufacturing tech for a long time now. This time they are collaborating with Steelcase on a new Additive Manufacturing method. Dubbed, Rapid Liquid Printing, this very promising technique is still in development. The research could potentially give printers the ability to create complex objects within minutes.
Rapid Liquid Printing extrudes polyurethane into a tank full of gel, creating objects by solidifying both liquids in the process. The method does not require any UV curing. “Our process does not print with layers, does not need support materials, can be printed in seconds to minutes and uses everyday industrial liquid materials,” said Skylar Tibbits.
Their partner, Steelcase, is set to make use of this method in its own operations. The Michigan-based company is an office furniture company. The CEO of the company has said that their aim is to head towards more customisable products through rapid prototyping. He believes rapid liquid prototyping can overcome the usual disadvantages of 3D printing. It is faster, the print sizes are bigger and it can also utilise a larger number of materials.
The video below shows the process in action:
Researchers have described the prints as feeling very soft and almost organic. Since the prints are made in liquids, the process requires a bit of washing. Other than that, it requires no other post-processing. The process also doesn’t require support materials, making it cheaper and faster.
Steelcase seems to be very eager to implement the tech into their processes. However, they may have to wait as this particular technology is still in the development phase. It could be years before it reaches a commercial stage.
MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab
The researchers describe themselves as “a cross-disciplinary research lab at MIT inventing self-assembly and programmable material technologies aimed at reimagining construction, manufacturing, product assembly and performance.”
MIT’s self-assembly lab is a branch of the university that deals with new types of engineering like 4D printing. The lab is dedicated to breaking new grounds in the ways machines and objects operate. It is most famous for its work in self-assembling objects and responsive building blocks. They have also made great strides in the field of programmable materials.