Get your music from your 3D Printed record

A report from Instructables.com who created a new technique for converting digital audio files into 3D-printable record players

In an exploration of the current limits of 3D printing technology, I’ve created a technique for converting digital audio files into 3D-printable, 33rpm records and printed a few functional prototypes that play on ordinary record players. Though the audio quality is low -the records have a sampling rate of 11kHz (a quarter of typical mp3 audio) and 5-6 bit resolution (less than one thousandth of typical 16 bit resolution)- the songs are still easily recognizable, watch the video above to hear what the records sound like.

This past year I’ve been posting a lot of audio projects, specifically, I’ve been experimenting with using relatively simple tools and techniques and very little memory to approximate and recreate digital audio signals. A great example is my Arduino Vocal Effects Box, where I used an Arduino to perform realtime pitch-bending on an incoming audio signal. Through these projects, I’ve learned that audio is a very resilient medium, it can take a fair amount of abuse (in the form of distortion and compression) while still maintaining most of the integrity of the original sound. The key is as long as you loosely approximate the overall shape of an audio signal, the output will sound reasonably recognizable. We have evolution to thank for this: as we hear audio, some complicated processing goes on in our brains that makes us very good at ignoring noise and focusing on the important pieces of information coming through. We can work off of relatively few cues (sometimes these even include contextual or visual cues) to piece together mangled or noisy audio and make sense of it; this is how we are able to focus on one voice in crowded room or decipher a message sent over a cheap walkie talkie.

This project was my first experiment extending this idea beyond electronics. I printed these records on a UV-cured resin printer called the Objet Connex500. Like most 3D printers, the Objet creates an object by depositing material layer by layer until the final form is achieved. This printer has incredibly high resolution: 600dpi in the x and y axes and 16 microns in the z axis, some of the highest resolution possible with 3D printing at the moment. Despite all its precision, the Objet is still at least an order of magnitude or two away from the resolution of a real vinyl record. When I first started this project, I wasn’t sure that the resolution of the Objet would be enough to reproduce audio, but I hoped that I might produce something recognizable by approximating the groove shape as accurately as possible with the tools I had.

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Source: Instructables.com

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