You can 3D print using sound waves – wait, did I hear that right?
Something I saw recently that made me re-read the headline was: “How Montreal researchers are 3D printing using sound waves.”
On April 27th, 2018, a team of engineering researchers at Concordia University successfully 3D printed an object utilizing sound waves. This research is being honored as one of the top ten scientific discoveries of the year by Quebec Science magazine.
The research team is led by Muthukumaran Packirisamy, Professor of Engineering and Director of the Optical-Bio Microsystems Lab at Concordia University.
According to CBC News, this technology may be used in the future for repairing nuclear reactors and spacecrafts or even printing medical devices that can be inserted into a patient’s body.
How direct sound printing works
Direct sound printing operates based on cavitation, a process which uses ultrasound waves to start small chemical reactions, lasting shorter than a second. As a result of the reaction, there is an enormous amount of pressure and heat.
According to CNET, the pressure is close to 1,000 times that of air at sea level and the temperature is about 27,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This is hotter than the surface of the sun which is close to 10,000 degrees.
Due to this, bubbles form in the printed material and then solidify. This allows the 3D object to be created layer by layer.
The objects can be as thin as 100 microns, which is equivalent to the width of a strand of human hair. Direct sound printing can work with a range of materials including plastic, ceramic, metal, and biomaterials.
Direct sound printing applications
As Packirisamy stated, "sound can penetrate through barriers where light cannot.”
Along this train of thought, sound can penetrate inside a body or device.
This creates the potential of 3D printing an object directly unto a surface, such as internal parts of a plane’s engine or under someone’s skin, without requiring surgery.
Packirisamy's team has printed parts such as: gears and propellers, honeycomb patterns, and the outlines of human noses and ears.
They have also sent ultrasound waves through a 15 mm (1.3 inch) layer of pig muscle, skin, and tissue. They were then able to print a small 3D maple leaf on the other side.
"DSP introduces the possibility of noninvasive deep inside body printing," Concordia researchers noted in a paper by Nature Communications.
Direct sound printing will continue to be one scientific innovation that makes you think, or in this case, read twice.
Watch how direct sound printing works: