Researchers at Australia’s University Of Wollongong are exploring using 3D modeling and 3D printing to make it possible to ‘print’ microtonal instruments on demand.
Here’s a video overview:
The project, part of UOW’s Global Challenges program, combines the field of microtonal music, which uses different tuning ratios than those traditionally used in most Western music and offers a greater variety of pitch, intervals and harmonies, with the emerging technology of 3D printing to create wind instruments that are not feasible manufacture using traditional technology.
The project is an example of one of the industry-wide trends for music making that we outlined in 10 Predictions For Electronic Music Making In The Next Decade:
4) You’ll design your own instruments – in the last few years, synth “hot rodding” has grown in popularity. You can get Roland TB-303’s with mods, keyboards with customized paint jobs and custom LEDs and end panels in the exotic woods of your choice. This is going to go mainstream in the next decade, with gear manufacturers offering you the option to order your gear completely customized.
Advances in manufacturing technology are going to push this further though. In a decade, you’ll design your own instruments, you’ll test them out virtually and they will be “printed” to your specifications.
We’re not to the point where electronic instruments are being 3D printed on-demand, but there are plenty other examples of this trend in action, including printed paper MIDI controllers, 3D printed guitars and on-demand 3D printed synthesizer parts.
The lead researcher on the UOW project, microtonal musician and music lecturer at UOW, Dr Terumi Narushima, says the project could lead to the music industry offering customized music instruments, on demand.
“There are huge possibilities for the future of this project,” notes Professor Geoffrey Spink. “We can see many applications moving forward with areas like custom-made instruments for people with physical restrictions, student models for use by children where the instrument grows as they do, customized instrument design where alternative designs can be printed and tested prior to production, as well as print on demand options,” he said.
The research team involved in this project also includes Associate Professor Christian Ritz, Dr Stephen Beirne, Matthew Dabin and Kraig Grady.
Dr Narushima will be performing with the 3D printed flutes at the Big Ideas Festival at UOW in August.