One of the major benefits of putting something out there in the maker universe is the support you engender almost immediately. You suddenly find yourself on a team of comparably creative problem-solvers. University of Michigan engineering student Dan Olson did just that when the fully 3D printed, functional trumpet he created didn’t really sound all that great when he played it. In a gesture of admirable humility, he posted a video on YouTube (check it out at the bottom of this page) in which he played his 3D printed trumpet and then played a Bach Stradivarius 37 and I’ll have to concur: Olson’s trumpet sounded pretty awful.
That said, I admire his ingenuity and sense of adventure. Olson, who goes by “sculptswithteeth,” also posted his STL files on Thingiverse along with instructions and photos, including a PNG diagram of the trumpet’s parts. The trumpet consists of 17 pieces with one piece, a valve, that gets printed and used twice.
Olson printed his trumpet using ABS and observed, “I’m not sure this would work well at all with PLA. It requires lots of sanding and post printing work.” As he was assembling, he broke several of the trumpet pieces multiple times but was able to fuse them back together using acetone, which you couldn’t do if you were printing with PLA.
Breakage aside, Olson also used acetone (you can use nail polish remover, which is the same thing) to fuse the six parts that attach to the valve chamber. Don’t forget to ventilate your work space.
The longest pieces were nearly 23 cm, so be sure your 3D printer’s build volume can handle those dimensions or you may have to either outsource the printing for those two components or print them in four pieces. You will also require supports when printing for a couple of parts.
Olson, who loves designing for 3D printing, said that although the various pieces may not fit together immediately without some refinement like sanding, he deliberately designed them to fit together tightly. In particular, the valves and the valve chamber required a couple of hours of adjustment before they were finally connected satisfactorily.
The only parts of Olson’s trumpet that weren’t 3D printed were the three springs he inserted to push up the instrument’s valves. “The design of the valve chamber,” he explained, “somewhat restricts the number of springs that will work.” He found springs that can sustain the compression to under 4 mm yet extend further than 16 mm and that could fit in the bottom of the valve chambers he designed. Note that you can also extend the bottom part of the valve chamber 1 or 2 mm.
The larger point here is that the trumpet is far from perfect but that’s one of the most compelling reasons to jump in with both feet — or hands and lungs, in this instance — and figure out how to make a 3D printed trumpet sound like a Bach Stradivarius rather than a toy-store purchase.
On a final note, one of the most successful parts of this 3D printing project was the mouthpiece, which works really well in metal trumpets. Olson is selling it on Shapeways for $14.95-$34.99 (depending on material), or you can send him a message via Thingiverse and he’ll sell you the STL file for $10.
Let us know what you think of this musical attempt over at the 3D Printed Trumpet forum thread at 3DPB.com. Check out the video below of Olson playing his 3D printed trumpet as well as a real trumpet.