Boston-based company RLP, short for “Rapid Liquid Printing,” is making waves in the 3D printing world with its groundbreaking Liquid 3D Printing Technology. This innovative approach, born out of MIT in 2015 and developed into a full-time venture in 2020, challenges conventional 3D printing norms. At the heart of RLP’s method is the use of a large vat of transparent gel, within which 3D printing occurs. Unlike traditional layer-by-layer approaches, RLP’s process involves moving a slender syringe through the gel in three dimensions, extruding material as it goes. The gel, thick enough to support extrusions without collapsing, parts and then seamlessly closes together.
Similar to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printers, RLP’s system employs a Cartesian gantry to move the syringe through the gel. Control over toolhead movement speed and extrusion amount allows for the production of various extrusion thicknesses, providing flexibility in print outcomes. The material of choice for RLP’s process is epoxy resins, with a mixing nozzle facilitating the exposure of two components, which slowly cure after extrusion. Remarkably, the gel medium is completely transparent, allowing for real-time observation of the 3D printing process. One standout feature of RLP’s technology is the absence of traditional support materials. The gel serves the dual purpose of supporting the print and providing a smooth surface. This eliminates the need for post-processing steps involving intricate support removal, simplifying the workflow significantly.
Post-processing with RLP’s Liquid 3D Printing Technology is a breeze — reach into the gel, pull out the print, and wash off any residual gel with plain water. The waste is safe for regular disposal. The potential applications are vast, with RLP suggesting the possibility of multi-material prints by using two toolheads with different resins. Varying extrusion thicknesses allow for the creation of complex shapes with gradients of hard to soft regions. Witnessing a life-size car seat being printed and completed, including post-processing, in just five hours showcases the remarkable speed and efficiency of RLP’s technology. The prints, predominantly flexible materials, boast outstanding surface quality with no visible support marks.
RLP is currently offering its Liquid 3D Printing Technology as a service, keen to observe and understand the industrial applications that could benefit most from this revolutionary approach. As they navigate these early stages, the potential for transforming the manufacturing landscape seems promising, and RLP’s liquid innovation might just be the game-changer the industry needs.