Flashforward Friday: 3-D Printing in Music – Raven Oak

Flashforward Friday: 3-D Printing in Music

I promise that not all of my Flashforward Friday’s will be music related, but this particular topic was too interesting for someone with my musical background not to cover! First, a little quiz.

3D printed saxophone

Image from: Gizmodo Article on the 3D printed sax

What’s better?

  • A plastic clarinet or a wood clarinet?
  • A plastic saxophone or a brass saxophone?
  • A keyboard or a piano?
  • A machine carved wood violin or a hand carved wood violin?
Answers: Wood, Brass, Piano, Hand-carved.

As a general rule, the longer it takes for an instrument to be made, the higher quality it usually is. A wooden clarinet takes longer to hand carve than machine-made plastic. Same with a violin. The difference between them is not just quality of the sound or the instrument, but the cost as well. For example, a plastic clarinet might cost a student $750, whereas a professional wood clarinet will set them back $3000-$4000. And that’s just a clarinet! If you get into string instruments, the price multiplies.

As a former teacher, it was difficult watching students who wanted to play instruments turn down classes like band and orchestra because they couldn’t afford several thousand dollar instruments. Renting them could run $40-$100/month, depending on the instrument. (And if your family is having trouble eating three good meals a day, that’s a lot of money to rent an instrument!)

But Olaf Diegel has managed to create the first 3-D printed Saxophone that actually sounds like the real deal(Past attempts at this have usually ended with instruments that were seriously inferior in sound/quality.)

It’s made of plastic, can be made in any color (great for schools), and sounds like a freaking brass saxophone. If this trend continues to work, this could mean everything for public schools. A student could walk in, try out lots of instruments, and pick one. Then have it 3-D printed and handed to them for much cheaper than the cost of buying one now. They are incredibly light weight (which for me, would have been nice! I have too many memories of walking home two miles while lugging a 22 lb. instrument behind me).

I still think hand crafted instruments are generally going to sound better, but for students and players on a budget, or school district band/orchestra programs, this is pretty awesome news indeed!

So what instrument did you lug home–uphill both ways through the rain, snow, and heat? 😉 And what instrument would you like to see successfully 3-D printed next?





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