LeviPrint is a system that uses acoustic manipulation for assembling objects without physical contact. It generates acoustic fields that trap small particles, glue droplets and elongated stick-like elements that can be manipulated and reoriented as they are levitated. It is a fully functional system for manufacturing 3D structures using contactless manipulation.
This research is due to be presented in August in Vancouver (Canada) at SIGGRAPH, a conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques where companies such as Nvidia, Disney Research and Facebook Reality Labs present their work.
Asier Marzo, lead researcher and member of the UPNA/NUP’s Smart Cities Institute (ISC) says, “we have designed a levitator combined with a robotic arm and a liquid dispenser to manufacture complex objects without contact.”
Unlike regular assembly and manufacturing techniques, in which parts are in direct contact with the machine, acoustic manipulation has been used to position and orient parts without touching them during the assembly process. “We can manipulate small, brittle parts, as well as liquids or powders, thus making the processes more versatile. There is less cross-contamination, as the manipulator does not touch the material. Furthermore, it enables manufacturing techniques that cannot be achieved using traditional 3D printing, such as adding elements on top of existing parts or manufacturing inside closed containers from the outside,” said Iñigo Ezcurdia, Ph.D. student and lead author of the research.
The researchers write that “levitation of small particles and droplets has been achieved before, but no existing work has managed to trap in position and orientation elongated objects; this research allows using segments, sticks or beams for the fast and contactless manufacturing of robust, lightweight and complex structures.”
The ultrasonic field can pass through fabrics, meshes and other materials. For example, the researchers built a ship inside a bottle by levitating materials from the outside through a small opening. The researchers say that if Leviprint is adapted to operate in aqueous media, it could assemble complex structures in cell culture media and perhaps even inside living beings.