3D-Printed Records Sound Eerily Like Edison's Early Wax Recordings

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

At the frontier of 3D printing technology, Amanda Ghassaei transforms digital audio files from Nirvana, New Order, and more, into playable 12" records. The results are recognizable, though fuzzy, calling to mind the wax cylinder recordings from the late 1800s

The San Francisco-based designer describes the process on her site

In order to explore the current limits of 3D printing technology, I've created a technique for converting digital audio files into 3D-printable, 33rpm records and printed a few prototypes that play on ordinary turntables. Though the audio quality is low -- the records have a sampling rate of 11kHz (a quarter of typical mp3 audio) and 5-6 bit resolution (less than one thousandth of typical 16 bit resolution) -- the audio output is still easily recognizable. These records were printed on an Objet Connex500 resin printer to a precision of 600dpi with 16 micron z axis resolution. The 3D modeling in this project was far too complex for traditional drafting-style CAD techniques, so I wrote a program to do this conversion automatically. It works by importing raw audio data, performing some calculations to generate the geometry of a 12" record, and eventually exporting this geometry straight to a 3D printable file format.

She goes through the technology involved in detail at Instructables.com, a community for sharing DIY projects. As you can see in this behind-the-scenes video from Wired, the process is a fascinating journey from digital to physical, transforming an audio waveform into grooves on a resin disk. The sound quality is crude, or course; her version of Daft Punk's "Around the World" is a "work in progress," she says, because the bass line is so heavy the needle skips. Still, it's an interesting step in the evolution of 3D printing. 

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/3d-printed-records-sound-eerily-like-edisons-early-wax-recordings/266752/

For more work by Amanda Ghassaei, visit http://amandaghassaei.com.

Via Jordan McGarry. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/01/3d-printed-records-sound-eerily-like-edisons-early-wax-recordings/266752/