The Ultrasound Research Group at Neurotechnology is developing a new, patent-pending ultrasonic 3D printing technology. This new technology will enable 3D printing and assembly of almost any type of object using a wide range of different materials and components. Because of the non-contact nature of ultrasonic manipulation, even small particles in the submillimeter range and sensitive components can be easily handled without causing any damage, enabling its use in many different prototyping and manufacturing scenarios.
As a demonstration, the Ultrasound Research Group has created a prototype printer that can assemble a simple printed circuit board (PCB), and the company has produced a video that further explains this innovative technology.
The demonstration prototype employs an array of ultrasonic transducers for the positioning of electronic components on a PCB board. In order to ensure high positioning accuracy, it uses a camera for detecting the position of the PCB and the various electronic components. A laser is used for soldering the elements onto the PCB in a non-contact way, complementing the non-contact component manipulation.
"Ultrasonic manipulation can handle a very large range of different materials, including metals, plastics and even liquids," said Dr. Osvaldas Putkis, research engineer and project lead for Neurotechnology's Ultrasound Research Group. "Not only can it manipulate material particles, it can also handle components of various shapes. Other non-contact methods, like the ones based on magnetic or electrostatic forces, can't offer such versatility."
Ultrasonic manipulation is a non-contact material handling method which uses ultrasonic waves to trap and move small particles and components. It has a few key advantages over conventional mechanical handling methods: It can be used for manipulating material particles and components with very different mechanical properties and shapes; It can deal with a large range of particle and component sizes, from a couple of millimeters down to a submillimeter range; It can manipulate very small components while completely avoiding the presence of electrostatic forces; and It can manipulate sensitive components without causing any damage.
The Ultrasound Research Group at Neurotechnology has strong expertise in the development of transducer technology and dedicated electronics for array control, ultrasonic field modelling and ultrasonic particle manipulation. Neurotechnology has a patent pending for a 3D printing apparatus and method employing ultrasonic manipulation. The company invites other companies to take part in further development and application of this technology.