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Forget inkjet, your next printer could be based on sound

Graphic visualisation of sonolithography
(Image credit: Universities of Bath and Bristol)

In a major breakthrough, scientists at the Universities of Bath and Bristol have successfully used sound to control ink droplets and print precise patterns.

A paper on the new printing technique, named Sonolithography, has been published in Advanced Materials Technologies journal.

“The power of ultrasound has already been shown to levitate small particles. We are excited to have hugely expanded the range of applications by patterning dense clouds of material in air at scale and being able to algorithmically control how the material settles into shapes,” explainsd Professor Mike Fraser from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath.

Future of printing

The implications of manipulating microscopic particles and droplets into precise patterns using sound are “far-reaching”, according to the researchers.

The researchers believe their work has the potential to change printing, especially in the fields of medicine and electronics, by increasing speed while reducing cost.

“The objects we are manipulating are the size of water drops in clouds. It’s incredibly exciting to be able to move such small things with such fine control. This could allow us to direct aerosol sprays with unheard of precision, with applications such as drug delivery or wound healing,” said Professor Bruce Drinkwater of the University of Bristol.

The researchers have also shown that Sonolithography works with a variety of materials, and are keen to hone it for printing electronics by adapting the technique to arrange conductive inks into circuits and components.

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