New 3D printing technology uses soundwaves
In the mind-blowing science department, a new 3D printing technology will use soundwaves to produce new objects. Scientists at Concordia University in Montreal describe what they’re calling direct sound printing (DSP) in a paper published in April in Nature Communications.
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The usual 3D printing techniques rely on light or heat to precisely manipulate polymers. DSP focuses ultrasound waves to create reactions in tiny bubbles in a liquid polymer solution. These soundwaves produce extreme pressure and heat for mere trillionths of a second—which is enough time to create big changes in very localized areas without affecting the surrounding material.
“We found that if we use a certain type of ultrasound with a certain frequency and power, we can create very local, very focused chemically reactive regions,” said Mohsen Habibi, as reported by ELE Times. Habibi is a research associate at Concordia’s Optical-Bio Microsystems Lab and lead author of the new paper explaining DSP. “Basically, the bubbles can be used as reactors to drive chemical reactions to transform liquid resin into solids or semi-solids.”
In the future, DSP could benefit industries that rely on delicate, highly specific equipment, such as medical devices. Since ultrasound waves penetrate metal and other opaque surfaces, the technology could be of use to aerospace engineering and repair. Not to get too sci fi on you, but there’s even the possibility of remote in-body printing for medical needs.
“Ultrasonic frequencies are already being used in destructive procedures like laser ablation of tissues and tumors. We wanted to use them to create something,” says Muthukumaran Packirisamy, an engineering professor at Concordia, as reported by ELE Times. Photos of early efforts to print with DSP accompany the published paper. In their experiment, the scientists used a polymer called polydimethylsiloxane and a transducer that creates the desired object one pixel at a time. Fittingly, objects printed include the letters DSP and a Canadian maple leaf.