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Managing Editor  | May 2017

MIT Self-Assembly Lab and Steelcase unveil new 3-D printing process


At Milano Design Week, the Self-Assembly Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Steelcase (an innovative furniture company), and designer Christophe Guberan unveiled a new 3-D printing process that uses rapid liquid printing technology to create customized furniture.

 

steelcase_600

A new rapid liquid printing technology has been developed at MIT.
(MIT/Vimeo)

 

According to an article on the Steelcase website, MIT created a new 3-D printing method that prints inside of a gel with the designer “drawing” in 3-D space.

 

The article added, “Because there is no traditional support material and structure or layering, the printing process is much faster and can be as big as the machine available. There’s also a two-part mixing process allowing the material to be chemically-cured instead of set using light or temperature. The technique mixes, extrudes and cures all while the 3D printing is underway.”

 

A table was designed and unveiled at Milano Design Week that took 28 minutes to print, despite the intricacy of the design. Another structure that took 50 hours to make using standard 3-D printing took only 10 minutes thanks to the rapid liquid printing technology.

 

“The collaboration between Steelcase and MIT will continue to seek further answers regarding materials, scale and improved printing processes,” the article continued. “It will also be important to figure out the optimal product or object to print – one that takes the best advantage of this new process.”

 

The process was also featured by WIRED. The article marveled, “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. Watching the materials solidify, it's easy to forget about the science behind it - for a moment, it's as if they've come into existence through sheer force of will. It's an impressive thing to witness, particularly given some of the complex curvature of the designs.

 

“What's more, in its current iteration, there are no limits to scale - with a large enough tank, the process can create objects of any size.”

 

Breaking the boundaries of 3-D printing is the goal of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, which is seeking to make the process faster, larger, and with better materials.

 

Of rapid liquid printing, the WIRED article said, “It's fast, designed to tackle large-scale production, and doesn't rely on prototype materials, instead using rubber, foam and plastic. Beyond its technical capabilities, it's simply hypnotic to watch.”

 

Watch the hypnotic process in the video below:


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