Additive Manufacturing Strategies

It’s Called the Javalele: A 3D Printed Instrument Combines Coffee & Music

ST Medical Devices

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As anybody who has ever heard a ripping guitar solo knows, anything (including the air) can become an instrument. Instructables user John Granzow has gone one step further and made a substitute that can actually play. One of the traits that makes designers a ‘different’ sort of people is the ability to see connections between what others see as unrelated objects. When Graznow saw a bin full of discarded portafilters, he didn’t see espresso, he saw music.jj

The portafilters came from expired espresso machines and immediately called to mind the frame of a banjo for Lilliputians. As a result of this visual connection, Granzow “decided to make appendages to transform this transporter of coffee into a transmitter of the plucked string.” After all, music and coffee go together beautifully.

The next step was to create a soundboard wrapper for the instrument. He created a 3D model and has provided the STL file for those who have a portafilter of the same dimensions as the one he used. The soundboard is designed to snugly fit over the chamber that previously held the coffee grounds allowing it to act as a resonant chamber. The diminutive fret board for the neck was also created for 3D printing.

The muses of music were in Granzow’s corner when he approached the creation of the audio hook up as the 3.5 mm audio connector from Philmore fit like a dream into the coffee outlet in the portafilter. Since he had calculated the distance for the frets necessary to make the neck functional for playing, he was able to then take seven A4 dowel pins and press them into the depressions that had been left in the print.

FKB4JB9I5BLPOW8.LARGEOf course a Javalele doesn’t assemble itself and so the next step was the attach the piezo disc to the audio jack placed inside the portafilter. After testing to make sure the connection is clean, the piezo is glued into place directly behind the hole left in the soundboard. For the bridge of the instrument, Granzow has provided an STL file but has also noted that a wooden bridge could be used as well.

When breaking new ground, one of the designer’s best resources is the modification of existing parts to new uses. Granzow pulled some ¼ size violin pegs together so that the instrument could remain true to the notes (important both for actual playing and so as to not make enemies of all who hear it). The pegs were still too large to be immediately functional and had to be adapted by drilling new holes for the strings.

At long last, when the strings are attached and the instrument tuned, you are ready to pluck out a tiny version of “Hello Hawaii” or possibly “Stairway to Heaven,” depending on your ambitions. I don’t expect that this will replace any current instruments in any garage bands in the near future. However, given the movement to create lower-cost instruments out of recycled materials it provides a prototype for the addition of 3D printing to the toolkit of the ‘junk’ musician. So keep your eyes open the next time you are at a flea market or junk store…you could be right in front of the perfect frame for something even bigger.

Is the Javalele an instrument that might hit the right notes for you? Let us know if you might make your own over at the 3D Printed Javalele forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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