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MIT's fast liquid 3D printing technology creates fixtures in minutes


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been at the forefront of 3D printing technology research. Recently, the Patrick Parrish Gallery in New York exhibited a 3D printing exhibition entitled "Liquid to Air: Pneumatic Objects" - MIT's self-assembly lab and Swiss designer Christophe Guberan use a new range of lighting and household items made with innovative fast liquid 3D printing technology.

In 2017, the self-assembly lab developed a new way to create objects: fast liquid printing (RLP). RLP uses a variety of extruded materials to physically absorb 3D space in liquid gel suspensions, from rubber to foam to plastics, to only adhere to itself rather than to gel.

Rapid Liquid Printing (RLP) differs from traditional 3D printing in that instead of constructing an object by laying the material layer by layer, an object is created by drawing a liquid gel suspension that is used to support the object because it is Drawn by the robot. This process is not only faster than traditional 3D printing, but also allows for greater complexity in creating objects. “Our technology doesn't require layering, does not require supporting materials, can be formed in seconds to minutes, and uses common industrial liquid materials,” explains Skylar Tibbits, executive director of the self-assembly lab at MIT. 3D printing technology, "Rapid Liquid Printing" (RLP) is undoubtedly a great advantage.

RLP technology can also create objects of different thicknesses. “As a designer, the most fascinating and unique feature of fast liquid printing for me is its print quality,” said Steelcase senior industrial designer Yuka Hiyoshi. “It's soft and organic. You can create a variety of dynamic shapes with gel freely, without the support materials and structures of traditional 3D printing technology, far more natural and smooth than other prints.

Because there are no construction chambers other than gel barrels, this technology is likely to scale significantly and even for 3D printing mass customization products. This represents a huge leap in 3D printing technology.

Now, the technology is implementing products including lamps and vases. For Liquid to Air, the team printed vases, lamps, pendants and wall lamps made of stretch silicone and inflated them into a circular buoyancy device with a plastic finish. During this process, the robot is "stretched" in the gel suspension and then inflated to its proper size. Printed silicone rubber is a material that is almost impossible to produce with any other printing technique, which allows the material to stretch around any structure, making the object much larger than its original printing volume.

Liquid to Air is not the first collaboration between the self-assembly lab and designer Christophe Guberan. At the annual Art Week in Miami last year, the MIT self-assembly lab demonstrated its innovative fast liquid 3D printing technology, which printed out tote bags and fixtures in minutes.

According to the introduction, the printing space is an 18 cubic meter water tank, the surface of the lamp is printed in the gel suspension, and the gel is rinsed off with water. The designer used it to create a retractable lamp made of silicone rubber that allowed the surface of the lamp to extend around the tube or other structure that was not possible with other 3D printing technologies. The ductility of the raw materials also greatly reduces the time required for printing and reduces the space required for storage/transportation. The surface of the lamp can also be customized according to the needs, and only need to be stretched around the inner bracket to form different sizes and shapes.

These lights and vases are available to the public and range in price from $95 to $3,200 depending on the size and complexity of the object.

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