Innovative system using acoustic levitation to assemble parts without physical contact

An increasingly present and useful technological reality, acoustic levitation has acquired a variety of applications as science understands and improves the resource.

In August, at the SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Interactive Graphics and Techniques) conference in Vancouver, Canada, an international team of researchers will present LeviPrint, their innovative project which consists of a system that uses acoustic manipulation to assemble objects without contact. physical.

Developed by scientists from the public University of Navarra (NUP), Spain, Ultraleap Ltd, UK, and the University of São Paulo, Brazil, the system generates acoustic fields that trap small particles, glue droplets and stick-like elements that can be manipulated and reoriented as they levitate. According to the website Techxploreit is a fully functional system for fabricating 3D structures using non-contact manipulation.

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,” said Iñigo Ezcurdia, NUP PhD student and lead author of the research. “There is less cross-contamination because the handler does not touch the material. Additionally, it enables manufacturing techniques that cannot be achieved with traditional 3D printing, such as adding elements to existing parts or manufacturing inside closed containers from the outside.

Innovative system using acoustic levitation to assemble parts

Cube being assembled by LeviPrint using acoustic levitation. Image: NUP-Public University of Navarre

According to Ezcurdia, levitation of small particles and droplets has been done before, but no existing work has succeeded in holding elongated objects in position and orientation. “This research makes it possible to use segments, sticks or beams for the rapid and non-contact fabrication of strong, light and complex structures. »

Some of the techniques offered include the use of a glue that solidifies with ultraviolet light. The system uses the acoustic levitator to trap a drop of glue dispensed by a syringe, which is levitated to the position where the next piece will be added. The system takes a segment or particle, places it next to previous ones in contact with the glue, and uses ultraviolet light to cure the glue so that the new piece is attached to the structure.

According to the project authors, if Leviprint is adapted to work in an aqueous medium, the system could assemble complex structures in cell culture and perhaps even within living beings.

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