3D printing software reshapes musical instrument design
When most of us think of a wind musical instrument, we usually imagine what is essentially a tube with a mouthpiece on one end – something like a flute, recorder, or saxophone. And while this is a proven and reliable design, the point is that wind instruments can take almost any shape. However, oddly shaped instruments are more difficult to design, which is where a new computer program called Printone comes in.
Developed by a team at Autodesk and Dartmouth College, Printone begins with a user-supplied three-dimensional shape, along with the target notes the user wants the instrument to play. Based on this information, the software creates a hollow acoustic resonant cavity in the shape.
Next, the user chooses the size and location of the finger holes, as well as the location of the mouthpiece. Printone reads the notes that these choices will produce, so the user can change them until they get what they want. If they wish, they can also simply switch to AutoTune mode, where the program automatically determines the size and location of the holes needed.
Once a satisfactory computer model of the instrument is created, it can then be 3D printed and actually played.
So far, the team has used technology to create 16 instruments, each designed to play a certain melody. These include a dragon playing Puff the magical dragon (seen above), a playing rabbit Little Peter Rabbit, and a star who plays Glitter, Glitter, Little Star.
“With Printone, anyone can be a designer of new wind musical instruments,” says Nobuyuki Umetani, Head of Design and Manufacturing at Autodesk. “You can turn almost any shape you like into instruments and play your favorite melody.”
You can hear some of the band’s creations in the following video.
Printone: Interactive resonance simulation for designing wind instruments in free form