Dec 15, 2017 | By Tess

MIT researchers are at the cutting-edge of 3D printing technology and, as it turns out, 3D printed design. At Design Miami, a four-day long event hosted as part of Miami’s annual art week, a team from MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab demonstrated its innovative rapid liquid 3D printing technique by manufacturing tote bags and lamp shades in minutes on the spot.

Design Miami marked the first time that the 3D printing method has been showcased publicly, and MIT partnered with Swiss designer Christophe Guberan and the Patrick Parrish Gallery to make the event all the more special.

Rapid liquid printing (or RLP), which was unveiled in Spring 2017, is a new 3D printing technique developed in collaboration with furniture company Steelcase which uses a robotic nozzle to deposit a filament material (which can be made from rubber, foam, or plastic) into a tank of industrial gel.

As the nozzle deposits the filament inside the tank of gel, the filament is suspended in the tank and only bonds to itself. This means that when the print in question is complete, it can simply be removed from the gel and rinsed off with water—no post-processing is required.

Moreover, because there is no build chamber other than the vat of gel, the technology has to potential to be scaled up significantly, and could even be used to 3D print large pieces such as furniture (which is what Steelcase is ultimately hoping to offer). The technology's versatility is also aided by the fact that the nozzle is capable of variable line thicknesses.

“Traditional 3D printing is restricted by slow speeds, scale constraints, and poor material quality, which makes it unreliable as a mainstream manufacturing process,” said the MIT Self-Assembly Lab team led by Skylar Tibbetts. “With rapid liquid printing, manufacturing can be reimagined as an artistic experience unlimited by scale or gravity, asking us to rethink design, production, uniformity, and product life-cycles.”

At Design Miami, which was held from December 6 to 10, the MIT team showcased its innovative technology by 3D printing mesh tote bags and flexible lamp shades, which visitors could buy on the spot.

Impressively, not only is RLP flexible in terms of scale, but the technique is remarkably fast. For example, the 3D printer was able to turn out tote bags in mere minutes at Design Miami, much to the amazement of visitors.

“The space serves as a manufacturing facility in which a robot instantly prints tote bags and art objects inside a glass tank of translucent gel," added the MIT team. “This exhibit is the first public demonstration of MIT's rapid liquid printing technology.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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