Innovation That Matters

3D printed 'zoolophones' produce specific sounds

Publishing & Media

Research led by Columbia University has discovered a method for 3D printing shapes to produce specific sound qualities.

Controlling the sound an object produces has always been difficult — attempts have been made to keep refrigerator motors quiet using a solid state motor — but engineers at Columbia University have developed algorithms that accurately 3D print objects to produce specific acoustic qualities.


Using their algorithms and taking ideas from a xylophone, the team designed a set of ‘zoolophones’ (metallic animal shapes) that were able to accurately reproduce various notes over a range of shapes including elephants, giraffes, and turtles. Their method enables users to print specific shapes that would produce specific sounds. The team also explored how the shape of an object can provide effective noise reduction by lessening the sound produced by nearby objects. Professor Changxi Zheng explains that their algorithm could pave way for less noisy computer fans, or bridges that don’t amplify vibrations under stress.

By 3D printing computer aided designs, a range of acoustically controlled structures could be manufactured. What other potential applications could this technology yield?



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