DIY: Turn sci-fi into reality by 3D printing your own portable sonic tractor beam

Jan. 5, 2017

The most logical use for a 3D printer is to bring your favorite sci-fi technologies to life, like portable sonic tractor beams.

Is there anything you can't 3D print nowadays? From drones and buildings and to organs and mini pizzas, it seems like anything is possible with a 3D printer and the right kind of filament. You can even print your own 3D printer. But the most logical use for a 3D printer is to bring your favorite sci-fi technologies to life, like portable sonic tractor beams.

According to Sophie Bushwick for Popular Science: "In the past, scientists have used sound waves to push and pull small objects around. However, they required setups that shot sound from multiple directions. Then, a little over a year ago, physicists from the University of Bristol and the University of Sussex published a Nature article demonstrating the first sonic tractor beam to use a single beam of sound waves. Instead of relying on interactions between multiple beams, the new device manipulated the sound waves' shapes—and object-trapping abilities—with a complex electronic array. It could trap small beads, and even a fly.

Unfortunately, that electronic array made the original design too expensive and complex for the average DIYer to build. So the study's lead author Asier Marzo, currently a research assistant at the University of Bristol, adapted the instrument so hobbyists could make their own. First, he changed the design to get rid of the electronics. Instead of modulating sound waves with electronic components, the new device uses its own physical structure."

About the Author

Alexis Gajewski | Senior Content Strategist

Alexis Gajewski has over 15 years of experience in the maintenance, reliability, operations, and manufacturing space. She joined Plant Services in 2008 and works to bring readers the news, insight, and information they need to make the right decisions for their plants. Alexis also authors “The Lighter Side of Manufacturing,” a blog that highlights the fun and innovative advances in the industrial sector. 

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