First Completely 3D-Printed Working Loudspeaker Built

Researchers for the first time have used 3-D printing to make a consumer electronic device, a loudspeaker ready for use almost as soon as it comes off the printer. The work by roboticist Hod Lipson at Cornell University and his colleagues suggests 3-D printing might soon be mature enough to let people manufacture complete devices on demand.

“The exciting part of this project is that it paves the path to 3-D printing of consumer electronics and active systems,” Apoorva Kiran, a Cornell mechanical engineer tells Txchnologist. “A good thing about 3-D printing inks that we developed at our lab is that even though they are for advanced applications, they are not hazardous chemicals, and their recipe is so simple that people can tinker with them even in their garage. With this work we hope that 3-D printing starts an era of open innovation.”

First Completely 3D-Printed Working Loudspeaker Built

Technology maturing

The world is seeing rapid advances in 3-D printers, which manufacture items from blueprints using a growing variety of ingredients — plastic, ceramic, glass, metal and even more unusual ingredients like sugar, mashed potatoes, chocolate and living cells. Such machines commonly work by laying down thin layers of material much like an ordinary printer, except they deposit layers on top of layers to create three-dimensional objects. Increasingly, researchers are using hobby and industrial 3-D printers to make parts for complex devices such as robots and jet engines.

Loudspeakers are relatively simple devices typically made of plastic, conductive and magnetic parts. The Cornell researchers made their speaker from three components — a plastic housing, a conductive coil and a magnet.

To print the speaker, the researchers used a Fab@Home customizable research printer originally developed by Lipson and colleague Evan Malone. For the coil, they used conductive silver ink; for the magnet, they used a viscous blend of strontium ferrite; and for the housing, they used plastics typically extruded by 3-D printers.

“These speakers turn out to be relatively easy to print,” says Robert MacCurdy, a Cornell electrical engineer. … (Read more)


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