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Cornell researchers fabricate a fully functional 3D printed speaker

In the world of 3D printing, the mantra is increasingly becoming: If you can dream it, you can print it. We’ve already seen the first 3D printed tonearm for a record player, ready to jam out the new breed of high-tech 3D printed records, such as this coming release from Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke. Now, researchers at Cornell have taken things a step further, developing a fully functional 3D printed speaker.

Breaking through the stifling Terminator rules of most 3D printing that disallow the creation of complicated machines with multiple parts, grad students in Cornell’s Mechanical Engineering department Apoorva Kiran and Robert MacCurdy have created a working speaker that can be minimally assembled and connected to play tunes fresh off the presses. A report from DesignBoom details the students’ creation under the guidance of associate professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Hod Lipson.

Apart from its plastic housing, the speaker includes a fully functional conductive coil and magnet spun from two specially designed customizable printers. The coil is created from a silver ink extrusion, while the magnet is spawned from a high viscosity blend of strontium ferrite.

Lipson says we’ve only seen the tip of the 3D printing iceberg. While current technologies must use two or more printers working together to create more complex designs such as the speaker, Lipson sees a time not far off in which a single printer will be able to use multi-tiered processes and materials to create extremely intricate objects. Lipson says the challenge is to create 3D printers that can use multiple materials all working in tandem. He sees a future in which transistors, batteries, and conductors are created all from one machine using base materials, likening the process to a color printer that can create a wide array of shades from primary colors.

While printing cyborgs with “living tissue over a metal endoskeleton” is still a ways off, it may not be too long before we see high functioning electronic devices forged from a single printing device. For now, we’ve got this small orange speaker to check out. You can hear what a fully 3D printed speaker sounds like in the video below.

cornell researchers 3D print fully functional loudspeaker from designboom on Vimeo.

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