Material Extrusion on an Ultrasonic Air Bed for 3D Printing

Samuel Keller, Matthew S Stein, Ognjen Ilic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing, offers unparalleled opportunities for rapid prototyping of objects, but typically requires simultaneous building of solid supports to minimize deformation and ensure contact with the printing surface. Here, we theoretically and experimentally investigate the concept of material extrusion on an "air bed" - an engineered ultrasonic acoustic field that stabilizes and supports the soft material by contactless radiation pressure force. We study the dynamics of polylactic acid filament - a commonly used material in 3D printing - as it interacts with the acoustic potential during extrusion. We develop a numerical radiation pressure model to determine optimal configurations of ultrasonic transducers to generate acoustic fields and conditions for linear printing. We build a concept prototype that integrates an acoustic levitation array with a 3D printer and use this device to demonstrate linear extrusion on an acoustic air bed. Our results indicate that controlled interactions between acoustic fields and soft materials could offer alternative support mechanisms in additive manufacturing with potential benefits such as less material waste, fewer surface defects, and reduced material processing time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number061001
JournalJournal of Vibration and Acoustics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). All rights reserved.


  • dynamics
  • materials in vibration and acoustics
  • propagation and radiation
  • smart materials and structures
  • ultrasound


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