The goal of this idea is to generate 3D shapes from molten ferrous materials using ultrasonics.
I've had this idea for years now. Having used both traditional manufacturing and 3d printing extensively, I wondered if there was a way to have the best of both worlds. Subtractive machining can produce solid voidless objects, while additive printing can produce intricate objects and shapes that subtractive could not achieve. I considered using the proposed method to produce objects without layers, but using the interference of ultrasonic waves to form melted metal into a desired shape. Over the years, I noticed technology improve that would be applicable to this. Using an electromagnet to hover a ferrous object in midair is a fun project and has a simple control loop. Ultrasonics were relatively recently demonstrated to do the same, and suggested as well as a haptic feedback device. Laser technology has improved in regards to power output and efficiency. But most importantly, the software for simulation, FEA, and controls has dramatically improved alongside increased processing power. Combined, I realized it could be possible to create such a machine.
How is this innovative?
If successful, this machine would combine the advantages of CNC machines and 3d printing into one. You could manufacture objects of a solid parent material without many layers, while maintaining the ease of use of a 3d printer.
How would this be manufactured?
The simple part of this would be the physical construction. Electromagnets and ultrasonic transducers are common components. As mentioned earlier, using a single electromagnet to suspend a ferrous sphere is a simple task to implement. Likewise with ultrasonics. The more difficult task would be the simulation, computation and control of the system once a solid object is melted.
The initial method would be to manipulate multiple smaller ferrous spheres (without melting), and progressively decreasing their sizes to simulate a fluid. If successful, then the addition of lasers (or other sources of heat) can be used to melt a solid object. Initial attempts (for both instances) would be to create simple shapes such as cubes. Progressively more complicated shapes would be attempted. Hopefully, a standing wave could be generated that passes through the object to create voids and allow for more complex geometries.
Aside from the cool factor of throwing in a ball of iron and watching it melt and morph into whatever shape was programmed, I see it being equivalent to what 3d printing accomplished. 3d printing allowed anyone to design a model and have it printed with minimal effort. Metal 3d printing currently remains out of reach for the average consumer, not to mention the large amount of powder needed per print. Being able to start with a solid and easily acquirable metal object, and have it turned into a desired one without the layers from 3d printing, or the investment in a capable CNC machine would be huge. And again, really cool.