May 24, 2015 | By Alec

While we’ve already known for a while that 3D printers can be used to create fantastical instruments (remember this 3D printed beer bottle keyboard?), one German Youth Club has used 3D printing technology to create a truly futuristic and high tech instrument: The Floppy Organ, that completely relies on 49 old floppy disks to create fascinating music – all of which are housed in 3D printed containers.

The club in question is ToolBox Bodensee e.V. in the town of Markdorf near the Swiss border. It’s a nonprofit club that wants to bring young people closer to the world of information, technology and electronics by offering them access to making tools such as 3D printers, soldering equipment, hardware and filament for free. They also host workshops and lectures to provide the kids with all the information they need to get started.With more than 40 members and the support from local industries and the municipality, they are giving the youth of their town an excellent head start on life through fantastic hands-on projects.

But of all those projects, the Floppy Organ is surely the most ambitious and impressive. It started out with three boys – Thomas, Jonas and Felix – who became inspired by YouTube clips of people playing around with used floppy disks, and they wanted to do something similar. Starting out with just four floppy drives and an Arduino, the project grew into so much more over the course of a few months. Eventually, it took twelve people more than three months to combine all the 49 disk drives (which they gathered by enlisting the help of the their entire surroundings and even the municipality).  It also contains 140 meters of cable, 360 soldering locations and 84 3D printed parts to form the housing – the club’s two printers were working non-stop for 30 hours. If you would like to recreate some of these parts, they have also graciously placed their 3D printable files on Thingiverse here.

While only finishing a week ago, the results are definitely worth it. Featuring a Bluetooth module for wireless playing, the entire organ has also been installed on a table to make it easy to transport and use at different locations (though it has to be carried by two people). And thanks to open source software called Moppy, it can be played with any MIDI keyboard and can even play automatically through a playlist of MIDI files. The Floppy Organ can play up to 14 sounds simultaneously, all of which are generated with the motors of the floppy drives. And we think it sounds great.

The next plans for the Floppy Organ are also already in the making, as the team tells us they are planning to upgrade the software and add some mood-creating touches to the Floppy Organ. Most significantly, they intend to add LED light signals to all disk drives, to ensure that watching the Floppy Organ being played will be a visual experience as well.

If you’re interested to check out this fascinating instrument for yourself, you can! The Floppy Organ and other projects by the Toolbox will be on display at the Maker World convention in Friedrichshafen on 27 and 28 June (booth 320). If you love this initiative, you can also become a supporting member to ensure that more projects like this can be funded in the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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ali wrote at 5/26/2015 8:08:34 PM:

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