Vaesko & Rapid Liquid Printing

At the Mind the Step exhibition during the 2018 Dutch Design Week, we got to show and present our version of a 3D printer for Rapid Liquid Printing, and a concept for dynamic shoes that could be made using this printing technology in the future.

Concept shoes

We explored a new way to fabricate hybrid shoes that can be, at least partially, built with rapid prototyping technologies. We used a combination of 3D printed silicone, fabric and molded shoe soles to create the shoes of the future.

We designed a shoe that incorporates pneumatic cavities (air pockets) that allow fluids (air or colored liquid) to flow when one steps into them. A pump in the sole of the shoe displaces the fluid into the upper cavity. These cavities were made by using baking paper between two layers of cured silicone, allowing us to incorporate any pattern or design we desire. In order to have the air pump sole and air pockets in the shoe upper as optimally manufactured as possible, we envision Rapid Liquid Printing will be an ideal method to 3D print these shoe uppers.

Dynamic shoe prototypes

Rapid Liquid Printing

Rapid Liquid Printing, RLP for short, is a 3D printing technology developed by MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab (Hajash, Sparrman, Guberan, Laucks, & Tibbits, 2017). This method of printing works by extruding a viscous material, a two-component silicone in our case, into a bath of hydrogel. The gel acts as a suspension material for the printed liquid and holds it in place. This effectively eliminates gravity and allows for a much more free and open type of printing as no support structures are needed. After the printed material is cured, it can be taken out of the gel. The gel can be reused multiple times.Since RLP is a rather new technology, there were no commercially available machines available for this type of 3D printing. That is why we decided to build our own printer for RLP.

Printer at Dutch Design Week 2018

Nozzle design & material extrusion

As a material for printing, we chose a two-component silicone with a 1:1 mixing ratio. This gave us two options: Mix the silicone prior to printing or mix the material in the printer. We decided to go for the second option as this would allow for longer print times and less waste.
We designed a 3D printable nozzle with a static mixing section that would mix the materials just prior to extrusion. After several iterations of the design, we had a nozzle that could reliably mix the two components and extrude it into the gel. The final nozzle can be seen in the image below.

Dutch Design Week 2018

During the 2018 edition of the Dutch Design Week, we got to show the printer and the concept shoes at the Mind the Step exhibition. The setup included the printer and two actuated shoe prototypes.  Together with Vimukthi Gunatilleke, one of the other members of the group, I gave a Mind the Story presentation about the development of our RLP 3D printer and its benefits.

Printer at Dutch Design Week 2018

Project done together with: Vimukthi Gunatilleke, Veerle Tijgler, and Naomi Swagten.

Reference

Hajash, K., Sparrman, B., Guberan, C., Laucks, J., & Tibbits, S. (2017). Large-Scale Rapid Liquid Printing. 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing, 4(3), 123–132. https://doi.org/10.1089/3dp.2017.0037