There are a number of drawbacks to 3D printing: for the moment it is still quite slow compared to injection molding or casting, and it is limited to a smaller production scale. Imagine a process that takes everyday materials and can create just about anything in record time—well rapid liquid printing does just that. Developed by MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab in collaboration with Steelcase, rapid liquid printing is like something out of a science fiction movie. It uses a tank of gel, not unlike hair gel or hand sanitizer, to suspend objects, overcoming issues of gravity and costly support materials. The machine injects a material (i.e. rubber, foam, plastic) into the gel to create a shape, and when it is finished the object is simply removed from the gel and rinsed off. The gel is self-healing, so it can be reused to create multiple objects without worrying about tunnels or holes created by the nozzle from previous printing. Objects of any size can be printed providing you have a large enough tank of gel. Rapid liquid printing is still in the research phase, but the possibilities and potential of this technology seem endless.
Monica Hutchings is a Canadian writer and translator from Toronto who has worked on everything from technical descriptions to academic journals. She is our copy-editor and our in-house DirectIndustry English translator.