Mind & Matter


Loudspeakers in Print

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Demonstration of a printed speaker. Image courtesy of Technische Universität Chemnitz.


In the early 20th century, Belgian artist René Magritte created The Treachery of Images, a painting that depicts a pipe with the provocative statement "Ceci n'est pas une pipe (this is not a pipe)" written below it. Magritte's explanation for the seemingly contrary declaration is that what you see is a representation of a pipe; not the actual object itself.

Thanks to the work of the Institute for Print and Media Technology of Chemnitz University of Technology (pmTUC), an object and its representation have become one and the same. Researchers at pmTUC have recently created printed speakers—loudspeakers that are printed on standard paper. According to senior researcher Georg Schmidt, "Frequency response and hence sound quality are very good and the paper is surprisingly loud. Just the bass of the paper-based loudspeaker is a bit weak."

Once printed, the paper is connected to an amplifier to intensify the audio signal—similar to a conventional speaker. The method, which is inexpensive to mass produce, suggests many interesting applications. In addition to print product integration, "sound wallpapers and purely technical applications, e.g., distance sensors, are possible, because the papers are also active in the ultrasound range," says pmTUC head Arved Hübler. "As printing allows for different formats and forms, there is the possibility to influence the generated sound waves."

Perhaps at the next Magritte exhibition we may hear the artist's work described by a print of a loudspeaker that speaks.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.