Synthetic, self-oscillating vocal fold (VF) models are physical models whose life-like vibration is induced and perpetuated by fluid flow. Self-oscillating VF models, which are often fabricated life-size from soft silicone elastomers, are used to study various aspects of voice biomechanics. Despite their many advantages, the development and use of self-oscillating VF models is limited by the casting process used to fabricate the models. Consequently, this thesis focuses on the development of 3D printing processes for fabricating silicone VF models. A literature review is first presented which describes three types of material extrusion 3D printing processes for silicone elastomers, namely direct ink writing (DIW), embedded 3D printing, and removable-embedded 3D printing. The review describes each process and provides recent examples from literature that show how each has been implemented to create silicone prints. An embedded 3D printing process is presented wherein a set of multi-layer VF models are fabricated by extruding silicone ink within a VF-shaped reservoir filled with a curable silicone support matrix. The printed models successfully vibrated during testing, but lacked several desirable characteristics which were present in equivalent cast models. The advantages and disadvantages of using this fabrication process are explored. A removable-embedded 3D printing process is presented wherein shapes were fabricated by extruding silicone ink within a locally-curable support matrix then curing the silicone ink and proximate matrix. The printing process was used to fabricate several geometries from a variety of silicone inks. Tensile test results show that printed models exhibit relatively high failure strains and a nearly isotropic elastic modulus in directions perpendicular and parallel to the printed layers. A set of single-material VF models were printed and subjected to vibration testing. The printed models exhibited favorable vibration characteristics, suggesting the continued use of this printing process for VF model fabrication. A micro-slicing process is presented which is capable of creating gcode for 3D printing multiple materials in discrete and mixed ratios by utilizing a previously-sliced single-material shape and a material definition. An important advantage of micro-slicing is its ability to create gcode with a mixed-material gradient. Initial test results and observations are included. This micro-slicing process could be used in material extrusion 3D printing



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





silicone 3D printing, additive manufacturing, material extrusion, embedded 3D printing, removable-embedded 3D printing, locally-curable support matrix, vocal fold models



Included in

Engineering Commons