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Professor Julian Evans and Dr Shoufeng Yang, Department of Materials, Queen Mary, University of London

Using sound waves to create multi-material 3D objects

Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London are using ancient art methods to create new multi-material dispensing methods for solids.

Gas and liquid valves are used everywhere, but valves to distribute powder present problems. Powders can jam or wear down the valves. By modifying specially designed funnels used by traditional cultures, scientists are now able to manipulate powders in a novel way.

“The Navajo Indians and Tibetan Monks created beautiful and complex sand or ‘dry’ paintings, using simple funnels and moving them to create the desired image,” says Dr Shoufeng Yang from Queen Mary, University of London. “We have based our work on this idea, and are using computers to change the vibration frequency and amplitude to control the flow of powder.”

The researchers use glass capillaries as funnels, and transmit music to the capillaries through loud speakers to generate the vibrations. The vibrations work as the valve, turning the powders on and off as needed and controlling the flow rate.

“We find it amazing that the creativity of ancient cultures has helped us overcome difficulties in today’s research,” continues Shoufeng. “The technique has important implications for solid freeform fabrication, as well as creating beautiful art.