Using Sound Waves To 3D-Print Objects

When an object is 3D printed, a computer processes an object’s design and sequentially “prints” each of its layers on top of one another. In a new form of 3D printing from the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and Heidelberg University, the printer materializes objects by manipulating sound waves, a “touch-less” version of 3D printing. Just as sound can have an impact on the physical world (like when blaring noises cause objects to vibrate), this novel method manipulates acoustic fields to mold tiny matter (typically biological cells) into the desired shape. Researchers first programmed an algorithm to calculate forms through ultrasonic holograms by using GPU acceleration and Google’s TensorFlow. Then, the sonic printer fires ultrasound fields toward a lab dish housing the cells and shapes them into the new object, which occurs all at once rather than in layers. Whereas mechanical printing harms the health of cells, the sound waves move them gently and without contact, allowing them to stay sterile. This opens new opportunities for researchers to 3D print living tissue and viable organs. Learn more at Fast Company.

Image courtesy of Max Planck Institute