3D Printed Instruments
People often wonder why 3D printing gets all the futurist-leaning geeks so excited. Well, here’s your answer. This behind-the-scenes video from Amit Zoran, a graduate student in MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities group, documents the design, production and demonstration of a beautifully executed 3D printed flute.
The sound isn’t bad, though to our ears it comes off a little hollow—impressive for a plastic flute nonetheless. What really gets us excited about this instrument, however, is the object’s flawlessly executed mechanics. While not without its flaws, as noted by the slightly befuddled musician playing it, the 3D printed flute works astoundingly well considering the relative complexity of its nuanced design. And while no MakerBot can as of yet match the precision of the Objet Connex500, the flute still serves as an infallible proof of concept for the often cited idea that we’ll one day be able to print bespoke objects on demand right from our desktop printers.
Perhaps what’s most inspiring about this project, however, is that it opens the door to all kinds of innovation in the realm of acoustic experience. With this kind of rapid manufacturing technology at our disposal, experimenting with wild and fantastical new instrument designs becomes that much easier (though, for the time being, not exactly cheap). The acoustic construction of most of our instruments—your everyday guitar, violin, trumpet and piano—was perfected centuries ago and really hasn’t been improved upon much since. But what sort of as of yet unexplored sonic territory will the advent of 3D printed instruments make possible? Who’s to say? Could be little more than an update on the kazoo, or it could be the latest addition to the horns section at your local symphony hall.