Disney Researchers Use 3D Printing to Produce Speakers of Any Shape

Posted on April 28, 2014

Disney Researchers have used a 3D printer to produce speakers of any shape. Disney printed some examples, including a rubber ducky shaped speaker and speakers in the shape of an abstract spiral. You could also make a speaker that looked like you, your cat or a dinosaur. Disney says the speakers currently require little assembly. They say that in the future 3D printer speakers may require no assembly at all. The method developed by Yoshio Ishiguro, a Disney Research, Pittsburgh post-doctoral associate and Ivan Poupyrev, a former Disney Research scientist, will be presented April 29 at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) in Toronto.

Ishiguro says, "In five to ten years, a 3D printer capable of using conductive materials could create the entire piece."

The speaker technology could also be used to add sound to toys or other objects. The speakers can be identified and tracked because they can produce both audible sound and inaudible ultrasound. They could be integrated into games and other interactive systems. Tactile feedback may also be possible with these speakers.

Electrostatic loudspeakers consist of a thin, conductive diaphragm and an electrode plate, separated by a layer of air. An audio signal is amplified to high voltage and applied to the electrode. As the electrode charges, an electrostatic force develops between it and the diaphragm. This causes the diaphragm to deform and produce sound. Disney says this type of speaker is not great for bass, but it is fine for producing high-frequency sounds, such as chirping birds, computer-generated blips and the human voice.

A research paper on the 3D printer speakers can be found here.

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