3D Printers Could One Day Bring Vinyl Records On Demand

Instructables

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Like countless others, I celebrated Record Store Day with a vinyl purchase this past weekend (don't you love the tinted see-thru 12"?). But in the future, with the widespread adoption of 3D printers, we might be seeing a mainstream return of vinyl  with print-on-demand records being delivered from bands/labels right to your turntable!

Amanda Ghassaei, an Instructables contributor, was struck by curiosity about the capability of current 3D printing technology. Turning to the latest and greatest in 3D printing, the Stratasys Objet Connex500, she was able to take a digital audio file and convert it into a playable 3D model of a record. But even at "600dpi in the x and y axes and 16 microns in the z axis" resolution, the resulting audio quality sounds like an audio tape recording of a record played through AM radio at low volume with a bad case of tinnitus. Nevertheless the experiment is an exciting hint about what's possibly in store for tech-loving vinyl fetishists out there, and Amanda's explanation of the project should hopefully inspire others to further improve the technique.

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In order to explore the current limits of 3D printing technology, I've created a program for converting digital audio into a 3D model of a record and printed some functional prototypes that play on ordinary record players. The audio on the records is very low resolution, it has a sampling rate of 11kHz (a quarter of typical mp3 audio) and 5-6bit resolution (less than one thousandth of the resolution of typical 16 bit audio), but the result is easily recognizable. 

In the spirit of Instructables open source model, Amanda was kind enough to share her Processing code, 3D model downloads, photos, and an incredibly detailed record (pardon the pun) of the whole process over at Instructables here.

(Images: Still CornersAmanda Ghassaei/Instructables)

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