How do you 3D print music?

A Lulzbot 3D printer has been hacked so that the stepper motors play music as it moves — and print as they play.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

A Lulzbot 3D printer has been hacked so that the stepper motors play music as it moves — and print as they play.

If you're Amanda Ghassaei, your solution to 3D-printed music is modelling a WAV into CAD file and printing off a record — but Swedish IT consultant Rickard Dahlstrand has a completely different approach.

Quite a few people have tooled around with playing music on stepper motors, which are an integral component in a 3D (or, indeed, any) printer. Dahlstrand figured that if he could get a stepper motor to play music, couldn't he get it to print at the same time?

At the 2013 Art Hack Day in Sweden, he demonstrated his Frankenstein's printer at work. "The stepper motors controlling the movement can be run at different speeds, the speed decides the pitch of the sound and makes it possible for the motors to make music," he explained. "Three motors each represent one of the tracks, and their movement makes a unique pattern.

"The two motors controlling the Z-axis moves only slightly to increase the height. Microphones on the motors picks up the sound and amplifies it."

Dahlstrand programmed his printer to play six different tracks: the "Imperial March" from Star Wars by John Williams; "William Tell Overture" from William Tell by Gioachino Rossini; "5th Symphony Part 1" by Ludwig van Beethoven; "Serenade Number 13 in G for strings" from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; "Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss; and "Habanera" from Carmen by Georges Bizet (shown in the video below).

The finished pieces don't look quite as good as the music sounds, but it's still pretty fun to watch.


About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.


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