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3D printing with live sound could print implants inside the body

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Concordia University researchers have developed a new technology platform that uses ultrasonic waves to create complex and precise objects. Researchers have successfully used sound to solidify a liquid in plastic. This so-called direct sound 3D printing could make it possible in the future to create implants directly in the body.

In Direct Sound Printing (DSP), ultra-high frequency sound waves are focused for only one trillionth of a second on a point of liquid resin. This short but powerful concentration results in the formation of a tiny bubble, which in turn has enough energy to trigger a chemical reaction that solidifies the resin. Most of the 3D printing methods currently in use rely on reactions activated by light or heat, which makes it possible to manipulate polymers with precision. This new 3D printing method could therefore offer a third option for creating new objects. Professor Muthukumaran Packirisamy, corresponding author of the research report, commented:

“Ultrasonic frequencies are already used in destructive procedures such as laser ablation. We wanted to use them to create something “

What is 3D Printing with Live Sound?

Sound 3D printing is based on chemical reactions created by pressure fluctuations in tiny bubbles suspended in a liquid polymer solution. The researchers found that by using a specific type of ultrasound at a specific frequency and power, they could create highly localized and highly concentrated chemically reactive regions. The reactions caused by the oscillations induced by ultrasonic waves in the microvesicles are intense, even if they last only a few picoseconds. Temperatures reach a pressure of about 1,000 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level and about 15,000 degrees Celsius. The reaction time here is so short that the surrounding material is not affected by the high temperatures thus caused.

Concordia University researchers have pioneered a polymer called polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), which is already used in additive manufacturing. Using a transducer, they generated an ultrasonic field that penetrates the body to selectively solidify the liquid resin, depositing it on a form of plate or other previously solidified object. The transducer moves along a predetermined path, creating the desired object pixel by pixel. 3D printing with live sound could open up previously unimaginable possibilities for additive manufacturing. Sound can penetrate solid bodies or devices, providing the ability to fabricate implants directly inside the body, rather than surgically inserting externally fabricated implants. For example, researcher Mohsen Habib states that the DSP method introduces the possibility of a non-invasive impression deep within the body.

Graphic representation of the process (photo credits: Nature Communications)

Versatile applications

The versatility of this 3D printing process could benefit industries that depend on very specific and sensitive equipment. For example, DSP could be used in aerospace engineering and repair because ultrasonic waves penetrate opaque surfaces such as metal hulls. This could allow maintenance crews to repair parts deep inside an aircraft fuselage that are difficult to reach by other means. DSP technology could also have medical applications and be used to imprint implants or the like into the body of humans and animals. Watch the video below to learn more about the topic or download the Nature Communications article HERE.

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