Apoorva Kiran and Robert MacCurdy, both graduate students in Mechanical Engineering, worked with Hod Lipson, associate professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to customize a device that could print a variety of materials.
The loudspeakers are made up of a plastic body, conductive coil and a magnet. The researchers had to figure out how to design and print materials that could fit together and work right away.
"Everything is 3-D printed," said Kiran, who is originally from Bihar, as he launched a demo recently by connecting the newly-printed mini speaker to amplifier wires.
Prior to coming to Cornell for his research, Appoorva trained as a Material Scientist, Physicist and Mechanical Engineer. He holds an MSc in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore and B Tech in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering and Physics from Indian Institute of Technology-Madras.
Lipson said he hopes this simple demonstration is just the "tip of the iceberg." 3-D printing technology could be moving from printing passive parts towards printing active, integrated systems, he said.
"But it will be a while before consumers can print electronics at home," Lipson said adding that most printers cannot efficiently handle multiple materials because it requires different temperatures and curing times.
Creating a market for printed electronic devices, Lipson said, could be like introducing colour printers after only black and white had existed.
"It opens up a whole new space that makes the old look primitive," he said.