Jan 17, 2017 | By Benedict

Instructables user XenonJohn has used 3D printed parts to create an impressive bagpipe-playing robot. The noisy system consists of a low-cost bagpipe ‘chanter,’ a pair of 3D printed e-NABLE hands, and an Arduino Mega 2560.

When Ivan and Jen Owen founded the e-NABLE Community back in 2011, they probably never envisioned how huge the project would become. Today, volunteers from all across the world generously use their 3D printers to create simple prosthetic hands for children in need, and the e-NABLE prosthesis has become one of the most recognizable artificial hands on the planet. But the Owens probably never envisioned this strange occurrence either: popular Instructables maker XenonJohn has taken two Raptor Reloaded e-NABLE prosthetic hands, wired them up to an Arduino, and programmed them to play the bagpipes. The name of the bot? Ardu McDuino, of course.

Love them or hate them, bagpipes have one of the most unmistakeable sounds of any instrument. Which is surprising, really, considering nobody you know actually plays one. That reedy highland drone, able to captivate and irritate in seemingly equal measure, has become a symbol of Scottish culture, and has somehow permeated through the eardrums of willing or unwilling listeners the world over. Now, in one of the year’s most unlikely 3D printing projects, Instructables user XenonJohn, apparently a big fan of the instrument, has created a robot that plays the bagpipes—sort of.

At present, John’s 3D printed creation consists of two e-NABLE hands, an Arduino, various electronic bits and bobs, and a bagpipe chanter. That’s not a person who recites rhymes about bagpipes, but a low-cost practice instrument, a bit like a recorder, that is used for honing one’s bagpipe technique without making too much noise. It’s the bagpipes without the bag, in other words. With this combination of items, John has made a robot that plays the chanter with its 3D printed plastic fingers, just like a human player would do.

Those familiar with 3D printed e-NABLE prosthetic hands will no doubt recognize that those devices, in their standard form, lack the kind of dexterity required to play a musical instrument. That’s why John rigged his 3D printed hands up with individual solenoids—coils of wire that act as magnets—for each fingertip. Through these solenoids, the “brain” of the bagpipe robot, an Arduino Mega 2560, can tell each finger when to press down on its corresponding chanter hole. With this feature in place, John has been able to program the robot to play entire songs.

When building the 3D printed bagpipe-playing robot, John did encounter a few problems, and is still working on a few of them. For example, John had to be careful to make sure his e-NABLE hands were exactly the right size for his chosen chanter. After a bit of trial and error, he found that 3D printing the prosthetic devices at a scale of 1.71 produced perfectly sized digits for the instrument. Elsewhere, the maker had to incorporate a system for “grace notes” into his code. Since the air flow through the chanter will eventually be constant, it was necessary to add extra notes between some melody notes in order to “break them up.” Otherwise a passage like two successive C notes, each lasting one beat, would just sound like a single C lasting two beats.

Although the robot is currently able to play music with all the style and verve of a human bagpipe player, John hasn’t yet made a suitable air pump system for it, so users currently need to blow air down the tube. Eventually, John plays to incorporate a pump, as well as arms and a head, to really bring Ardo McDuino to life. Until then, makers can attempt to build their own bagpipe bot, in its current state, by following John’s Instructables guide, while those who simply cracked a smile after hearing those fun but slightly unbearable melodies are encouraged to vote for the project in the Arduino Contest 2016, the Make Noise Challenge, and the Design Now: 3D Design Contest 2016.



Posted in Fun with 3D Printing



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