While 3D printing has been touted for its tremendous advantage over other manufacturing techniques, when it comes customization, not everyone is utilizing the technology to its fullest potential. Over the past few years, we have seen our fair share of 3D printed musical instruments, many featuring custom designs, and even custom elements for unique sounds. However, what one man–who happens to hold a PhD in Nuclear Engineering–has developed takes the entire idea of customization to a whole new level.
Kent Wardle, who has plenty of experience with 3D printing, having used it to design and prototype advanced concepts for equipment used to process nuclear materials, decided to use the technology for a less serious creation. In doing so, he came up with a design for what he refers to as the Mixtrument.
“I have two young sons (ages 5 and 3) and only one toy instrument called a ‘saxoflute’,” Wardle tells 3DPrint.com. “I play my clarinet sometimes and when I practice my boys will play their own little musical instruments–with only one mouthpiece for the saxoflute, that led to too much fighting. So I needed a second whistle mouthpiece. Once I had that, I decided to make a bunch of other pieces to see what works. Plus, I didn’t like the finger-hole sections on my son’s toy–the raised holes on mine are much easier to use and I can put multiple holes on a single section.”
Mixtrument is a 3D printable kit that provides for many different combinations of mouthpieces, different bells and sections with holes, to create different looking and sounding wind instruments. All of the pieces can be 3D printed on virtually any FDM/FFF-based printer and fit together perfectly when printed correctly. While Wardle tells us that some of the combinations work better than others, all of the possible instruments will play come kind of sound when the pieces are assembled together. He advises against creating an instrument that is “too long,” as these tend to require more air control than the shorter instruments.
“I think this particular design may only work well for woodwind style instruments which tend to have a large inner diameter,” Wardle tells us. “I did make the trumpet-style mouthpiece but am not sure it works just right. I have noticed that brass instruments tend to have tubing with a smaller diameter so I may need to make a separate version. Like I said, I would love to make a trombone-style slide of some sort, but need to give that some thought on how to make it workable but still sealed. I did just upload an as yet untested flute-style mouthpiece as well–your question about other instrument types triggered the idea.”
While there are already quite a large range of combinations that can be created with Wardle’s current version of the Mixtrument, he says that he may come up with some additional ideas in the near future as he and his sons experiment with his creation further. He is also open to ideas that the 3D printing community may have on improving or adding to his design.