Sci-fi visionaries often paint an alternate reality with awesome biological and technological advancements; flying cars, lightsabers, humanoid robots. It’s all fun and games until we see a liquid printing device that can make the real world into a Westworld-type dystopian reality. Last year MIT teamed up with design company, Steelcase, and created an experimental 3D printing process called the Rapid Liquid Printer. Besides it’s memorizing factors, it’s actually breaking our understanding of how 3D printing can work.
By now we’re all familiar with 3D printing machines. You might even have some in your schools or libraries. They’re transformative tools, however, traditional 3D printing still has its limitations: speed, quality, and size. Most 3D printing methods are slow and rely on layer by layer building for structure. They also usually use cheap prototype materials that then need to be “cured” — or hardened — with a special light.
This isn’t a scalable procedure, we can’t go beyond a few pieces here and there over hours and hours of printing time. A mostly hollow plastic baseball, can take up to two hours to print, and in an experiment, a traditional printer took 50 hours to make the same print that the Rapid Liquid Printer did in just ten minutes. And speed is not the only thing that makes the Rapid Liquid Printer different.
The real secret is in the liquid gel: it’s powerful, providing a suspension and 360 support that a traditional printer just can’t. The printer can draw in a 3D space; eliminating a final, and unforeseen limitation: gravity. Depending on the gel’s composition we can produce with high quality substances like plastic or metals, and the molding just cools within the gel and boom. You pull out a table, and what’s best is that with a big enough tank, there are no scale limitations for this method.