“LeviPrint” is a system that uses acoustic manipulation to assemble objects without physical contact. “We generate acoustic fields that trap small particles, glue droplets, and most importantly, elongated stick-like elements that can be manipulated and reoriented as we levitate them. functional for the fabrication of 3D structures through contactless manipulation.” This is how UPNA/NUP-Public University of Navarre researchers Asier Marzo and Iñigo Ezcurdia explained, who together with Rafael Morales (Ultraleap Ltd, Kingdom UK) and Marco Andrade (University of São Paulo, Brazil) are the authors of the article “LeviPrint: Contactless Manufacturing Using Full Acoustic Trapping of Elongated Parts.”
This research is to be presented in August in Vancouver (Canada) at SIGGRAPH, the most important conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques where companies such as Nvidia, Disney Research and Facebook Reality Labs present their work.
As Asier Marzo, Principal Investigator and Fellow of the UPNA/NUP Smart Cities Institute (ISC) pointed out, “We designed a levitator combined with a robotic arm and a liquid dispenser to make objects contactless complexes.” Unlike traditional assembly and manufacturing techniques, in which the parts are in direct contact with the machine, acoustic manipulation was used to position and orient the parts without touching them during the assembly process. “We can handle small, fragile parts, as well as liquids or powders, which makes processes more versatile. There is less cross-contamination, as the manipulator does not touch the material. manufacturing that cannot be done using traditional 3D printing, such as adding elements to existing parts or manufacturing inside closed containers from the outside,” said Iñigo Ezcurdia, PhD student and author principal of research.
As they explained, “Levitation of small particles and droplets has been done before, but no existing work has succeeded in trapping elongated objects in position and orientation; this research allows the use of segments, sticks or beams for the rapid and non-contact fabrication of strong, lightweight objects and complex structures.
Some of the techniques offered include the use of a glue that solidifies with ultraviolet light. Glue-only parts can be made, but structures are usually made by assembling particles and elongated segments using this glue. For example, the system uses the acoustic levitator to trap a drop of glue dispensed by a syringe. The droplet is levitated to the position where the next part will be added. The system picks up a segment or particle, positions it next to the previous ones in contact with the glue and uses ultraviolet light to dry the glue so that the new part is attached to the structure.
The ultrasonic field can pass through fabrics, mesh and other materials. For example, the researchers built a vessel inside a bottle by levitating materials from outside through a small opening. “If Leviprint were adapted to work in aqueous media,” they pointed out, “it could assemble complex structures in cell culture media and perhaps even inside living things.”