A team from the Institute for Print and Media Technology at Chemnitz University of Technology, Saxony, had been working on the project for just two and a half years when they managed to make a successful prototype.
It involves printing layers of polymers and conductive chemicals onto a single piece of paper to create a speaker.
“A cable is used to run music from a computer or MP3 player, which causes the printed layers to vibrate against each other and push the sound out,” project member Dr Georg Schmidt, told The Local.
He explained that, as polymers are cheap to make in big batches, the printable speaker could not only become a viable, cheaper alternative to normal speakers. That is as long as you don't mind a slight lack of bass – the speakers cannot yet deliver heavy sounds when turned up to 11.
“As soon as we had them working we used them to listen to the radio all the time in our office,” Schmidt said. “They can create sound up to 80 decibels, so more than loud enough to hear inside.”
Although he added that because all of the new wafer-thin creations were going on display at a media fair in Düsseldorf, they have had to switch back to regular speakers for the time being.
The team in Chemnitz have high hopes for the printable speaker, which is highly flexible and even “produces a better sound when it is being bent” Schmidt said, but refrained from going into the complicated physics behind this.
While the speaker could be a great alternative to regular speakers, the team are particularly interested in the idea of developing “intelligent packaging”.
The speakers will be on display in Düsseldorf, at the “drupa” – an international print-media expo that takes place between May 3 and May 16.