MIT spin-off Rapid Liquid Print raises $7M for 3D printing

MIT spin-off Rapid Liquid Print has raised $7 million in funding for its novel liquid-based 3D printing technology.

Boston-based Rapid Liquid Print was founded as an additive manufacturing startup in 2015 as a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Germany’s HZG Group led the investment round, joined by BMW i Ventures and MassMutual through MM Catalyst Fund (MMCF).

Based in Lichtenfels and Coburg, Bavaria, HZG Group is a renowned venture capital investor managing a $64.6 million tech fund with a dedicated focus on 3D printing startups. Rapid Liquid Print has nine people.

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So far, HZG Group has mainly been active in Europe’s DACH region, with Rapid Liquid Print being the second U.S. investment. According to Rapid Liquid Print, the capital will primarily be used to scale production, expand the team of experts behind the technology, and build additional business areas.

The name of the company says it all: Rapid Liquid Print is a new 3D printing process developed at MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab in Boston.

In this innovative process, a liquid object is “drawn” in three dimensions within a gel suspension. A gantry system injects a liquid material mixture into a container filled with a specifically engineered gel, drawing the desired object into three-dimensional space via a nozzle. The gel holds the object in suspension – as if in zero gravity – while the object cures during printing.

The entire printing process takes minutes and requires no additional support structures to be printed. The printed objects can be used immediately without post-processing.


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I print therefore I am.

Bjørn Sparrman and Schendy Kernizan are the founders of Rapid Liquid Print. They told me in an interview they were working in the MIT Self-Assembly Lab on additive manufacturing, using new types of 3D printing machines from companies such as Formlabs. Form Labs uses a resin-based photo-cured process. That is, they took a wet resin and hit it with a laser so that it hardened immediately. Then they did that over and over.

Steelcase approached the researchers to examine the shortcomings of 3D printing for furniture. There were plenty of problems, like the need to print small blocks and then glue pieces together.

They used a technique called embedded printing where you have a substrate, suspend materials in a liquid, and then build out the rest of an object. It worked very well with soft objects being printed. They also worked with BMW on printed objects like silicone rubber for seat cushions. They patented the work for the university and then took out a license as they spun the startup out of MIT.

As the startup, shifted away from the Formlabs tech and instead concentrated on silicon rubber printing.

“We ended on silicone mainly because of that, the advantage that it is extremely soft. It’s really safe to and durable,” said Kernizan, who is CEO.

The founders left MIT in 2020 to do the startup full time. They agreed to an exclusive licensing agreement with MIT to use the patented technology. And they’re developing their own IP too.

New 3D prospects for established materials

Rapid Liquid Print in action.

Rapid Liquid Print’s technology is not restricted by the size limitations that apply to most additive manufacturing processes. It enables the creation of complex and large-scale geometries using well-established materials that have been used in industry for decades. The technology also scores highly in terms of sustainability: the gel can be reused multiple times, and in the case of the current focus material silicone, the print material can be recycled at the end of the product lifecycle.

3D printing is a type of machining method, and printing in liquid allows for the printing of different kinds of structures, such as lattice structures or lightweight structures, in a faster way than can be done with a traditional layer by layer process. This kind of manufacturing is different from the layer by layer approach, which is very linear.

The Rapid Liquid Print can print something the size of an arm in less than an hour. They print it within the liquid gel, wash it off, and it’s done. It doesn’t require a lot of post-processing steps like with regular 3D printers.

“It’s about skipping all those extra steps that let you produce on a large-scale,” Kernizan said.

The liquid gel is reusable and so that helps with sustainability. The gel supports the structure as it is being printed.

Kernizan said, “In the HZG Group, we have found an investor who recognizes the full potential of our technology and has its own track record of setting standards with the introduction of metal 3D printing on an industrial scale. Together, we will take RLP’s technology to the next level. RLP will benefit greatly from the HZG Group’s engineering expertise and network at its high-tech location in Bavaria.”

HZG Group was founded by 3D printing pioneers Kerstin and Frank Carsten Herzog, who built their previous venture Concept Laser from scratch and developed it into a global market leader in the field of additive manufacturing.

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Materials printed with Rapid Liquid Print.

In 2016, General Electric acquired a majority stake in Concept Laser. Now, the Lichtenfels region in Germany’s Bavaria is recognized as one of the world’s innovation hubs for 3D metal printing, with investments of more than $269 million in state-of-the-art 3D printing infrastructure and facilities from various companies, providing an environment for best-in-class 3D printing ventures.

Entrepreneurs Kerstin and Frank Carsten Herzog leverage their extensive technological and commercial expertise, as well as their international network of academic and industrial partners, to support this development. They also enable HZG Group to operate its own research, development, and application center, naddcon.

Florian Bechmann, CTO at HZG Group, said in a statement, “Rapid Liquid Print rethinks additive manufacturing beyond the established layer-based process. It is like a new coding language into which existing processes and functionalities are translated, resulting in complex elastic components with outstanding industrial properties and fast production times. The development of an industrial-scale production machine is one of the mid-term milestones that Rapid Liquid Print will work towards with our support.”

The German investor has a big network for machine manufacturing and that’s exciting for the startup, said Sparrman.

While doing the research, they spent a lot of time staring at the gel. As a joke, they called it “gel TV.”

The production machines won’t be cheat at the outset and will probably cost six figures.

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Rapid Liquid Print can print flexible rubber lattices.

Marcus Behrendt, Managing Director BMW i Ventures, said in a statement, “With the HZG-Fund leading the Series A investment, we are thrilled to have found an outstanding partner renowned for their expertise in 3D printing. Teaming up with HZG and the visionary leaders at RLP, we are sure to create a winner in the space of elastomer 3D printing. The unparalleled technology from RLP has accumulated significant interest, affirming its superiority. Their success in demonstrating the potential relevance of their technology in the automotive industry speaks volumes.”

Rapid Liquid Print’s printing factory currently operates in the greater Boston area, not far from MIT. The machines are used to print customer orders across many industries, including but not limited to medical, automotive and consumer goods sectors. In addition to the innovative printing technology, the company has developed a novel software platform to control the print head within the three-dimensional gel space.

The team has nine people in Charlestown, Massachussetts, a part of Boston. For now, Rapid Liquid Print is doing the 3D printing for its customers. Over time, it hopes to create printers that customers can buy and use on their own. With this approach at the outset, the company can incur lower startup costs and learn what the new technology can do. There’s a first customer that is using the technology and the startup wants to use the knowledge to figure out which parts of the 3D printer are really working well.

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Rapid Liquid Print can print objects that are suspended in a liquid gel.

One of the things it is good for is printing the cushion liner for prosthetics like artificial arms. It can create a liner that serves as a protective layer between skin and a rigid socket.

“The exciting part for us is to do parts that you cannot do any other way,” Sparrman said.

Those include structures that are like lattices or soft and durable materials. It makes them think about a new future for foam seating or bedding. It can also be used for new seals or gaskets.

“This new process is inspiring new ideas, and new ways of improving a product that is very exciting for us,” Kernizan said.

Kernizan said the company will likely stick with soft printed objects because there is so much potential in that space.

“When you are doing complex geometries, you can come to us,” he said.

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