3D printed records
3D printing really took off in 2012. For the uninitiated, you can print sunglass frames, machinery, shoes, headphones and even fabrics—almost anything is on the cards and is limited only by the size of the printer, the quality of the digital model, the type and quality of the printing compound and, of course, imagination.
Amanda Ghassaei has developed a process to 3D-print “vinyl” records that are compatible with your standard 33RPM turntable. Hers is a process that could revolutionise the niche world of vinyl music. Given that the last-ever record pressing machines were manufactured in the 1980s, such technology is out of the hands of the average Jo(anne).
Put simply, the normal process for making a vinyl record sees all the vibrations of detected sound recorded into a spinning disc of wax (or other, more modern substrate). This wax disc is then used to create a negative image of the recording in metal, which is used to press copies of the recording into hot molded vinyl.
Normally, modeling a record with all of its tiny grooves in a spiral would be a task too complex for most modeling packages to handle. Amanda’s 3D print process employs an algorithm she wrote herself that automatically converts a digital music file to 3D printable geometry. There are a few more steps following this, but I hope you get the idea.
The final step is to send the file to a 3D printer. In this case, a very high-resolution printer. The result?
Smells Like Teen Spirit, Nirvana... and other ditties.
With each print, using different tracks, Amanda has refined her process and modified her algorithm to yield better results. Okay, it’s not perfect, but then, the 3D printing industry as a whole is fledgling, so it stands to reason that, as the industry matures, as Amanda’s algorithm improves, we’ll end up with a high resolution, in-home alternative to vinyl.