With live music essentially vanishing from the world this past year, I am inspired to start making my own music again– neighbors be damned. I recently started looking into electronic drum kits; they are all expensive. This led me to do what I commonly do in these situations: see if I could print my own. This has become a theme in my household… my wife has learned that when she asks me to buy something, what I actually hear is “can you print me something?” The answer most of the time is “yes, I can print it”– even if I still end up buying her what she wants rather than making it myself.

After doing a quick Google search, I found that not only could I print my own drum kit, but there is a readily available instructable with all of the parts, coding, etc. This meant I could make my very own drum kit… and with access to a whole slew of materials and printers at 3DPS it would be a fairly easy build.

One user of these instructables, Ryo Kasaka, created a guide to build a single drum and then went on to create a full electronic kit using some basic contact microphones and Arduino ( an open-source electronic prototyping platform that enables users to create interactive electronic objects). Since this was posted almost 4 years ago now, several similar stories have come out about making both electric and acoustic drum kits using 3D printing. An example that stood out is Stratasys partnering with Panic! at the Disco– resulting in a full 3D printed transportable acoustic drum kit called “Wizzdrum” which is available for purchase right now. 

While I still have not built my own kit, I am intrigued by using 3D printing and the intersection with creating music. 

I also have a musician friend who plays trombone. When I consulted him about this idea about 3D printing and music, he mentioned instruments called pBones. They are essentially plastic trombones. The sound quality is surprisingly good and they can be a great alternative to expensive, heavy metal trombones. This is especially useful for young students who want to learn the instrument. Hearing that there was already a plastic trombone, I knew that there had to be existing files for printing a trombone available– sure enough, I was correct! There are designs available that use cheap plumbing tubing as well as fully 3D printed parts. 

For less than $50, you can print a fully functional musical instrument for students to use for practicing and learning the basics. With many arts programs’ funding being cut throughout the country, it is thrilling to hear that students can use technology to create a more practical way to express themselves artistically. There are a plethora of instruments that can be created in a way that reduces price, weight, etc. that have already been made. From string instruments like violins, guitars, ukuleles– to woodwinds like recorders, ocarinas, and pan flutes– there are many ways to create music through 3D printing. 

For trained musicians, there are also accessories to improve playing or experiences such as mutes, capos, and more. Even if instruments cannot be fully 3D printed, replacement parts can be created using 3D prints. 3D printing some parts may be cheaper than traditional manufacturing with a significant reduction in the overall price of instruments.

Another exciting option to consider is the creation of new instruments or redesigns of existing instruments using the unique capabilities of 3D printing. I imagine that 3D printing can be used to create interesting new air chambers and valves that would be impossible for traditional manufacturing to create. This allows for wild and unique sounds previously unheard of or new, more customizable instrument shapes that make them more ergonomic for a wider audience of people to play.

Playing an instrument had a huge impact on me during my formative years and I honestly believe it made me a better person. It taught me to practice, be on time, be creative, be expressive, think quickly, and many other positive traits. I carried these experiences with me into getting my engineering degree and ultimately into my 3D printing career. I envision a music classroom with 3D printed practice instruments for every student who wants one. Schools would no longer have to worry about budget cuts to their music programs because they could work with science and engineering classes to help print and create their instruments. I believe creating music is a useful skill that every person who has the desire to learn should pursue; seeing 3D printing making that more accessible to people is music to my ears.

If you have any exciting opportunities you think The 3D Printing Store could help with, reach out to project@the3dprintingstore.com or call 720-443-3733.

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