Here at Evans Graphics we pride ourselves on keeping up to date with the latest print trends, even those we’re unlikely to adopt as a business.
Ours is an ever-evolving industry. It’s easy to forget digital printing was in its infancy as recently as the 1990s…
Now a new process has emerged which could prove equally as transformative.
That’s because a team of scientists at Canada’s Concordia University have developed what they’re calling Direct Sound Printing (DSP). Yes, you read that correctly.
The theory is sound waves will help produce 3D objects, creating an alternative to light and thermal mechanisms currently used for that same purpose.
It’s a novel approach and one which could make a big difference in a number of industries.
What Is Direct Sound Printing?
DSP was outlined in a recent paper published in Nature Communications.
This explained how ultrasound waves can be harnessed to create what’s known as ‘sonochemical reactions’ inside minuscule cavitation regions.
In plain English, this means sound is used to create bubbles of cavitation.
The wider process relies upon focused ultrasonic beams. These will allow you to print through items that are transparent to ultrasonic energy.
Once those all important cavitation bubbles come into being, liquid polymer is able to turn solid.
Still with us?
The science may sound complex, but the outcome is far easier to comprehend and get behind.
Indeed, there is the very real prospect of 3D sound printing transforming the likes of medical procedures.
It’s not inconceivable to think polymer could be injected into a patient’s joints, before a 3D print structure manifests inside the body. This would certainly prove less invasive.
Others who may take a keen interest in the method include engineers working within the aerospace sector. Repairs will be greatly simplified within the likes of a fuselage if ultrasound waves can be utilised to penetrate opaque surfaces.
In fact, any industry where delicate equipment is prominent could reap the rewards.
Testing Direct Sound Printing
Detailing his thought process, Research Associate Mohsen Habibi said:
"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. Basically, the bubbles can be used as reactors to drive chemical reactions to transform liquid resin into solids or semi-solids."
Throughout the course of their trails the scientists used polydimethylsiloxane – a form of polymer.
A transducer was deployed to generate an ultrasonic field, one that passed through the material’s shell before solidifying the intended liquid resin. This was eventually deposited onto the platform.
The transducer itself duly progressed along a pre-defined route, gradually creating the final product pixel by pixel.
It was quickly established that the density of the build material, combined with a change in acoustic pressure, could create a material inside of the bubbles themselves.
And with that, a new process was born.
DSP does hinge on chemical reactions. These are short but extremely intense.
Temperatures inside a cavity will be ratcheted up to some 15,000 Kelvin, while pressure will exceed 1,000 bar. Yet the end result will be the realisation of pre-designed and complex geometries not possible within current techniques.
The prospect of printing items within other items is an exciting one yet a note of caution should also be sounded. The reality is bubbles will never make for clean and sharp edges…
Even so Research Chair Professor Muthukumaran Packirisamy, has promised this is just the beginning.
"We proved that we can print multiple materials, including polymers and ceramics," he said. "We are going to try polymer-metal composites next, and eventually we want to get to printing metal using this method."
Evans Graphics will not be providing 3D sound printing anytime soon, but we’ll keep a careful eye on its development. As we do all design and print trends. It’s sure to be something we’ll all hear a lot more of in the coming years.