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Drum Roll, Please…Designer Creates 3D Printed, Open Source Prosthetic for Amputee Drummer

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In high school, college, and for a few years as an adult in a local community band, I played percussion. I was mostly on mallet instruments, such as the chimes, xylophone, marimba, etc. Though I dabbled in many others, like crash cymbals and the bass drum, along with the triangle, I never mastered the snare. However, any percussionist worth their salt, regardless of the instrument they specialize in, knows what a paradiddle is – one of the basic rudiments, or patterns, of drumming, it consists of four quick, even strokes (the same number of syllables in the word paradiddle) played in an alternating order of ‘left-right-left-left’ and ‘right-left-right-right.’

But now, the word paradiddle means something new – it’s the name of an open source, 3D printed drumming prosthetic.

The upper-extremity Paradiddle prosthetic, named for the rudiment, was designed specifically for Greg Anton, a renowned amputee drummer who has been playing for over 50 years.

3D printing has been used to make instruments, like drums, and even assistive prosthetic devices for playing instruments, but I’ve yet to see such a tool for drummers, until the Paradiddle project by designer Dominic Siguang Ma, who was born in China but resides in the US and is, according to his resume, attending the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

The open source Paradiddle device is made from 3D printed HP 12 glass-filled nylon plastic material, and augmented with existing mechanical parts. This way, users like Anton can just download the file, 3D print it, and use it to play more comfortably and intuitively. Anton worked with Siguang Ma to develop the unique features of the 3D printed device.

Controlling the bounce of a drumstick is one of the most important parts of the classic drum roll. This was one of the challenges in making Paradiddle – designing a mechanism that can realistically mimic the way a person’s hand controls the drumstick’s bounce. Most traditional prosthetic drum devices, in addition to costing a lot of money to manufacture, require you to modify the drumsticks themselves, are fixed, and have low adjustability. Paradiddle provides a solution for each one of these issues.

In addition to controlling bounce, the open source Paradiddle project was attempting to achieve comfortable positions of the drumstick relative to the drummer’s hand, as well as accommodate various drumstick sizes.

An adjustable polycarbonate spring on the Paradiddle allows amputee drummers to control the bounce of their drumstick – they simply push their leg against the control bar, which releases the spring adjuster and allows it to slide into a slot.

An aluminum stop that’s attached to the spring in its neutral state will then drop into the hole to prevent the adjuster from moving around too much while the drummer is playing.

The inside of the prosthetic device’s socket is covered with a smooth, soft, layered EVA foam, for high levels of comfort during playing. Velcro keeps the strap attached around the wrist, and the drumstick holder itself can work with drumstick sizes ranging from 0.4″ to 0.625″.

In addition to helping Siguang Ma design the Paradiddle device, Anton also validated the prosthetic for him, providing the designer with very valuable feedback that has actually inspired additional development of the project. In terms of drumstick prosthetics, Anton is certainly the one to listen to.

The amputee drummer has had a prolific career, performing at thousands of concerts around the world and in many recordings. In addition, Anton performed in the “Yes, I Can” trailer for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

Let us know what you think! Discuss 3D printed instruments and prosthetic devices, and other 3D printing topics, at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 

[Sources: Core77 and designboom / Photography and video by Joshua Skirtich]

 

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