Canadian researchers at Concordia University want to change how you do 3D printing. Instead of using light or thermal processes, they suggest using ultrasound-activated sonochemical reactions. Sounds wild? You can watch a video about it below, or read the paper in nature.
The idea is that the sound creates bubbles in the cavity. This requires a focused ultrasonic ray which means you can actually print through transparent items in ultrasonic energy. Wherever cavity bubbles form, the liquid polymer hardens.
As you might expect, the bubbles do not create a nice clean edge, but we did see the traditional 3D prints that didn’t look good anymore. The idea that you might be able to print things inside other things offers some interesting possibilities. In particular, it may be possible to inject a polymer into someone’s joint and then create 3D print structures inside their body with minimal aggression.
We need to consider whether ultrasonic energy can be moved in the same way that a mirror can move a laser without moving the transducer. Ultrasonic energy, on the other hand, is relatively high, so it is probably not possible. The transducers they are using, however, are commercially-available and used for medical purposes, so if you want to try it, it doesn’t seem like there is much external to deal with it. Since they are intended for treatment, they may not be cheap, but some may be fragmented
Sound isn’t usually something you don’t want on your normal 3D printers unless you’re playing music on them. We don’t know if a simple levitation transducer will work in this context, but you can always try.