If you’ve ever watched the Blue Man Group perform, you may have wondered about the series of tubes they strike to create percussive yet melodic notes. It’s called a tubulum, and it’s in the same family of instruments as a xylophone or vibraphone, only it utilizes hollow tubes to create music. The Blue Man Group’s giant tubulum was built from PVC pipes, but the bright minds at Cimquest realized that they could create the same effect through 3D printing.
Cimquest, a service bureau and Stratasys 3D printer reseller headquartered in New Jersey, decided to have a little fun with 3D printing while also demonstrating the capabilities of the technology. CEO Rob Hassold, inspired by the Blue Man Group, came up with the idea to create a version of their famous tubulum – scaled down a bit, understandably. The design was drafted in SOLIDWORKS as a multi-part assembly, then converted to an STL file and printed in 145 parts on Cimquest’s Fortus 900 and Fortus 400 3D printers.
While the tubulum could have been printed in one piece on the Fortus 900, according to Cimquest, they decided to print it in multiple pieces, not only to be more efficient but so that they could use all ten colors available with Stratasys’ ASA material, an ABS-like, production-grade thermoplastic. It was a good choice, in my opinion – the finished instrument is striking (no pun intended) with its brightly colored rainbow of tubes. The entire thing, including the wheels attached for easy transport, is 3D printed, except for the cotter pins that hold everything together.
“We even have threaded tuning caps that attach to the end of each pipe, which help us reach the perfect tune on each note…On the tubulum the seven ‘natural’ notes all have their own unique color, while the flats notes are printed in white, allowing a musician to easily distinguish notes (they are labeled too). The colors also enhance the aesthetics by giving it a bright & pleasant appearance,” Brendan Conley, Cimquest Marketing Specialist, told 3DPrint.com.
The tubulum has three octaves, with the notes arranged like a piano keyboard. The instrument produces a low-pitched sound that creates interesting variations on the music played on it, which you can see in the video below as budding Cimquest musicians bang out the Beverly Hills Cop theme song, Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”
Unsurprisingly, the tubulum was a highlight for visitors to Cimquest’s booth at several trade shows this year. We saw it at Inside 3D Printing New York back in April, and can vouch that it drew quite a crowd of visitors gleefully tapped out tunes using flat paddle-like instruments that also somewhat resembled spatulas.
“We even provided sheet music at shows to help further provoke attendee interaction with the instrument,” Conley told us. “(Additional songs played include ‘Fur Elise’, Star Wars theme songs, Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’, Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, ‘Jump’ by Van Halen, ‘Very Superstitious’ by Stevie Wonder, ‘Sweet Dreams’ by Eurythmics and more. These songs were all arranged by Cimquest.)”
There’s no better way to draw people’s interest to 3D printing than by creating something fun and interactive that also demonstrates the technical capabilities of the process. You can see the tubulum in action below:
Discuss in the 3D Printed Tubulum forum at 3DPB.com.