Jan 6, 2018 | By David

We’ve seen a few different examples over the years of 3D printing being used to customize various musical instruments, or even to create entirely new 3D printed equipment with which to make music. The hobbyist community is still the main area where the technology is used in this way, and a recent project posted on Thingiverse is a particularly unique idea that is pleasing in its simplicity. A team called the Makefast Workshop shared its experiments with making the TuneFast harp, an instrument that is capable of producing a range of different sounds with just one string.

The conventional harp is notorious for its complexity, particularly in terms of the tuning of the instrument. There are dozens of large strings, and adjusting the tension each one changes the shape of the whole instrument, so it affects the tension of all the other strings around it. This is why tuning can be such a painstaking process.

The Makefast Workshop team responded to this difficulty by creating an instrument that would have a lot of notes but using just the one string. This would function similarly to the harp in terms of the whole range of notes being affected at the same time, but would be much easier to work with. The string is under constant tension, so a user just needs to adjust the relative position of each endpoint in order to select the desired notes.The design for the instrument was intended to accommodate an octave, consisting of the eight notes of the diatonic scale (the white keys on a piano) plus one extra note.

The main body of the TuneFast harp needed to be rigid enough to resist excessive deformation as the string was tightened. PLA filament was chosen for its rigidity, and the frame was created using CAD design and 3D printing. As the project was developed, the team experimented with a variety of different string types, before finally settling on relatively fine nylon electric guitar strings. They also tried out additional extras like a magnetic sliding pick mechanism, to play chords with the instrument instead of just single notes, but eventually decided to settle with as simple a design as possible.

Different notes are produced on the TuneFast harp because of the way the string is zig-zagged around a series of V-grooved bearings, which are low-friction and function as the aforementioned endpoints. Tuning pegs from a guitar are attatched to these endpoints, so the tension of the string can also be adjusted, varying at different points on the frame that it weaves itself around. Changing the tension of the string effectively alters the pitch of every note, so that the key can be shifted up and down as the user sees fit.

The Makefast Workshop’s version of the TuneFast harp was printed with a Lulzbot Taz 6 FDM 3D printer, and total printing time was around 3 hours. All the extra hardware cost no more than 7 dollars, and assembly is relatively straightforward.

The project was intended as a way to teach people about the basics of stringed instrument physics. As well as sharing the design files and assembly instructions on Thingiverse, the team went into more technical detail about the development process on its website. They shared a brief but useful explanation of the string vibration frequency equation, which calculates the way that changing the tension of a particular type of string will affect the pitch of the note that is produced when it is plucked. Hopefully this will serve as inspiration for more musically-inclined hobbyist or technically-minded musicians to experiment with putting together their own 3D printed instruments in the future.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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