December 18, 2013
The First Fully Functional 3D-Printed Loudspeaker
[ Watch the Video: Loudspeaker Made With A 3D Printer ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Three-dimensional printing technology has gained ground recently, and a new device out of Cornell University is merging plastic with music.
Cornell researchers have created a fully functional loudspeaker with 3D printing, opening up the gateway to a new “on-demand” type of retail. The team said in a video posted on YouTube their loudspeaker is the first 3D-printed consumer electronics device.
Apoorva Kiran and Robert MacCurdy, both graduate students in mechanical engineering at the university, led the project. They said everything in the project was 3D-printed, including the plastic shell, flexible membrane, metal wires and the magnet.
[ Watch the Video: A Fully Functional Loudspeaker is 3D-Printed ]
The first step in the printing process was to create the case, followed by printing the electro-magnet coil wires. After this, the researchers printed the magnet and then warmed the whole device in order to anneal the metal and magnet. Once all these steps were taken, voila, a 3D-printed loudspeaker was born.
Hop Lipson, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who worked with the students on the project, told redOrbit the speaker has a somewhat tinny sound and low impedance, but the sound quality is descent. The big news isn’t so much about the quality of the speaker, but what this creation represents: a world where consumers won’t need Amazon’s drones for quick delivery, but instead could print their order right on their desktop.
“In the future, you could imagine 3D printers that can print in multiple materials simultaneously – like inkjet printers print with multiple colors today. If such multi-material 3D printers would be able to print plastic and metals, conductive and non-conductive materials, magnetic materials, etc at the same time, they could print things like loudspeakers, microphones, and headphones in one shot. You would then just download the blueprint, and hit print,” Lipson, who is a leading 3D printing innovator, told redOrbit in an email.
We are still a long ways off from a world where we can print off the latest-and-greatest technology from our own desktop, but it’s steps like the one the Cornell team has taken that will lead us down that path to the future of retail.
A world where consumers print off their products from home will require a lot of milestones to be reached. For instance, 3D printers themselves will have to continue to evolve, as well as the materials the devices use to build products. Lipson and his students’ creation might help influence the future of the 3D printing industry and take it to the next level.
“I think it is a demonstration of the next wave of 3D printing,” Lipson, author of the book Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, told redOrbit. “Most 3D printing today is about printing passive parts. But the next wave is about printing integrated active systems. We’ve just seen a tip of the iceberg, and I hope this project gets people thinking along these lines.”
The professor said they have big dreams for where this research might lead them into the future.
“We want to print batteries, actuators, transistors, etc. We want to print a robot that will walk out of the printer, batteries included!”