Fungi, Mushrooms & Mycelium

Researchers Use Mycelium & 3D Printing to Make Loudspeakers More Sustainable

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Learning Technology (Fraunhofer IWU) is investigating the potential of mycelium as an effective, affordable, and sustainable material in loudspeaker construction.

The researchers aim to process live mycelium using 3D printing, before influencing its growth to achieve both sound-reflecting and sound-absorbing properties. By altering environmental conditions, the properties could be specifically adjusted, creating foam-like structures to absorb sound and dampen vibrations along with solid and smooth structures for sound reflection. Mycelium could therefore be used both for loudspeaker housings and as an insulating material.

This technique could reduce the cost of producing transmission line loudspeakers, which are expensive and complex as they contain a pipe up to three metres long to provide bass and reduce resonance. This pipe must be folded several times to fit into the speaker box. By 3D printing components, IWU’s technique removes the need for tools, reduces joints and the use of adhesives, and overall requires significantly fewer steps.

© Fraunhofer IWU

Sustainable and cost-effective

Mycelium can be sourced from organic residues such as straw, sawdust, or beer-brewing byproducts, making it both sustainable and cost-effective. Furthermore, while conventional machining creates significant waste, 3D printing involves only producing what is necessary. The mycelium used by IWU is non-toxic and completely biodegradable.

The potential of mycelium-based materials is increasingly being recognised, with companies such as Italy’s SQIM using mycelium for interior design, fashion, and automotive materials. Mycelium has also been used to create packaging, construction materials, and leather alternatives.

“Fraunhofer IWU has a lot of expertise in technical acoustics and additive manufacturing,” said Fraunhofer IWU. “The institute masters a wide range of methods for analysis, simulation, and optimisation for the entire chain of sound generation (excitation, transmission, sound radiation). It also manages the Fraunhofer Competence Area Additive Manufacturing with twenty Fraunhofer institutes across Germany; one of our research focuses is functionally integrated 3D printing for applications in a wide range of industries.”

IWU’s research results on the cultivation and printing of mycelium will be presented at the international biomanufacturing conference BioM in Dresden from June 11-13.

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