Lithuanian software company, Neurotechnology has announced the development of a 3D printer that operates using ultrasonic particle manipulation.
The ultrasonic 3D printing technology was demonstrated by the company’s Ultrasound Research Group and has particular potential for electronics. Research engineer and project lead for Neurotechnology’s Ultrasound Research Group, Dr. Osvaldas Putkis explains the patent-pending 3D printer will use a variety of materials in order to produce electronic objects that are entirely 3D printed.
Putkis says the 3D printer is “capable of printing virtually anything” and points to the example of a smartphone with all its components printed from a single device.
Gif shows suspension of small material using ultrasonic transducers. Images via Neurotechnology.
Using ultrasonic transducers, the research group manipulated small materials and even electrical components to a high degree of accuracy. The prototype device can transport electronic components to a specific location and then solder them with a laser. The process is enabled by a camera which determines the position of the substrate and materials.
Ultrasonic technology has been used for 3D printing prior to this with Ohio-based company Fabrisonic. However, Fabrisonic’s patented technology uses ultrasonic sound waves to weld thin layers of metal sheets together. The company was recently granted a new patent to incorporate the technique into hybrid machinery.
Gif shows the manipulation of foam material. Images via Neurotechnology.
Materials and components
Dr. Osvaldas Putkis, who is listed as the inventor of the technology, explains the potential,
Ultrasonic manipulation can handle a very large range of different materials, including metals, plastics and even liquids. Not only can it manipulate material particles, it can also handle components of various shapes. Other non-contact methods, like the ones based on magnetic or electrostatic forces, can’t offer such versatility.
The non-contact nature, combined with high accuracy, means the system can control very small and sensitive particles without damaging them or affecting their electrostatic forces. The scale of component sizes can be from a number of millimeters down to sub-millimeters. Similarlly, we’ve seen how 3D printing has been used to create a tractor beam device that can suspend materials with transducers housed in a 3D printed cup.
By offering such versatility, Neurotechnology intends to develop a unique 3D printer device which could 3D print a wide range of materials and possibly allow for the creation of 3D printed objects with embedded components and electronics.
According to Neurotechnology, the Lithuanian company is currently inviting other organizations to support development of the project and ultrasonic particle manipulation technology.
If you’d like to 3D print your own acoustic tractor beam then you can download the files here.
Featured image shows the process of manipulating objects using ultrasonic transducers. Image via Neurotechnology.