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Published on December 7th, 2016 | by 3dmiddleeast

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New ‘Printone’ design tool lets you 3D print wind instruments in crazy shapes

Earlier this year, we were impressed by one maker’s ability to create a functioning ocarina wind instrument using pretty much only a 3Doodler 3D pen. While the instrument was beautiful and can be customized in its decor, the process of creating it does require some patience and time. If you’re interested in making your own wind instrument but are short on the aforementioned factors, there is a new software tool that could be right up your alley. “Printone” is a new interactive design tool that essentially allows users to create their own 3D printable wind instruments in virtually any shape or form. The tool, which utilizes interactive sound simulation feedback, can help to create a wide range of 3D printed wind instruments.

Printone was developed by a joint team of researchers from Autodesk and Dartmouth College. The research project, which will soon be presented at the 9th ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia, demonstrates how the team was able to create 16 free-form wind instruments shaped like a star, a rabbit, a dragon, a snowman, and more. Each 3D printed handheld instrument is capable of playing a simple melody inspired by its shape.

Wind instruments, which create sound when the player blows air into and through it, can be complicated to make by hand. As the researchers explain, “the sound of a wind instrument is governed by the acoustic resonance as a result of complicated interactions of sound waves and internal geometries of the instrument. Thus, creating an original free-form wind instrument by manual methods is a challenging problem.” This is why most existing wind instruments have fairly conservative constructions—think of the recorder or flute’s tubular cylindrical shape.

Now, however, thanks to the rather ingenious Printone tool, users can create a vast array of wind instrument shapes. To use the tool, users need to upload a 3D shape into the tool, which automatically generates a hollow acoustic cavity within it. From there, the user can choose which notes it wants to include in the instrument (the four notes to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, for example), and where the mouthpiece will be located.

Printone also lets the user choose the scale of the object, which in turn affects the range of notes that can be played. Throughout the design process, a sound simulation lets the user keep track of what sounds the instrument is playing. For the less musically inclined, the tool also has an “AutoTune” feature which automatically sizes and places the holes on the object. Once completed, the customized wind instrument can then simply be 3D printed on a desktop 3D printer.

“3D printing has opened up possibilities for personal customization in manufacturing,” commented study co-author Emily Whiting, assistant professor of computer science at Dartmouth College and an avid flutist. “Our research shows how it’s possible to customize shapes not just for their appearance, but also for physical behavior like acoustics. We’re also excited about the creative opportunities to design an instrument for a specific piece of music. Future work could expand into ergonomics so that the instrument’s finger configurations are easier to play for a particular melody.”

Of course, Printone is not going to replace traditional wind instrument manufacturing, but is rather meant to be used as a tool for creating more playful, toy-grade instruments. For instance, if you’ve ever wanted to play Mary had a Little Lamb with a sheep, or Beethoven’s Ninth from the composer’s bust, Printone offers an easy 3D printable solution.more

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