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Digital audio files converted into 3D-printable records

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December 31, 2012

Amanda Ghassaei has developed a technique for converting digital audio files of virtually ...

Amanda Ghassaei has developed a technique for converting digital audio files of virtually any format into 3D-printed records that can be played on any ordinary turntable

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Like many music lovers today, I have a huge digital library and even though I've now converted much of my vinyl collection to MP3, I still return to my racks often. I've not really considered the possibility of converting my MP3/OGG/FLAC files into 12-inch records ... until now. While exploring the limits of today's 3D-printing technology, digital music tinkerer Amanda Ghassaei has come up with a technique for converting digital audio files of virtually any format into 3D-printed, 33.3 RPM records that can be played on any ordinary turntable.

When playing a gorgeous slab of black vinyl, a stylus moves along a groove cut into the surface of the record spinning at a constant speed (33.3 RPM for albums and 45 RPM for singles). As the stylus hits tiny bumps along the groove, it vibrates to produce an audio signal. This is amplified and routed through speakers to get you up and dancing. The 3D-printed disc behaves in a similar fashion.

Close-up of the 3D groove patterns

Close-up of the 3D groove patterns

To convert the digital audio files into records, 3D modeling files were produced using a custom algorithm authored in an open-source programming environment called Processing. Conversion calculations were performed on raw audio data to generate the 3D groove patterns on the disc, and this information was saved as an STL file and sent to the 3D printer.

The final discs were printed using an Objet Connex500 UV-cured resin printer to an X/Y resolution of 600 dpi (and 16 microns on the Z axis), which is a good deal more accurate than desktop extrusion printers like the Replicator or the Cubify, but nowhere near the microgroove resolution of modern records.

The digital source files are sampled at 11 kHz and have a 5-6 bit resolution so the output...

As you can hear in the following test of a 3D-printed recording of New Order's Blue Monday, the end result is not exactly an audiophile's dream. The files are sampled at just 11 kHz and have a 5-6 bit resolution (CD quality is 44.1 kHz/16-bit) so the output quality is quite low, but still recognizable.

Ghassaei has detailed the process on her Instructables page, which includes links to download the files needed to experiment with your own digital files (assuming you have access to a high-resolution 3D printer). Each of the test prints featured is roughly a minute long, although the system is said to have the potential to produce about six minutes of audio per disc.

For the moment, the quality of the end product isn't really tempting me to seek out the nearest high-res 3D printer but as resolutions improve, there's a good chance that my ancient turntable could find itself treated to the odd slice of digital gold.

Source: Amanda Ghassaei via Hackaday

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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9 Comments

So, technology comes along that betters, and ultimately kills, existing technology only to allow yet newer technology to resurrect the dead technology. Would it be considered ironic that 3D printing takes longer to produce an LP than the dead technology of cutting a master and pressing an LP?

This is the same as making the wheel square so that it can be made round again at a later date.

Rt1583
31st December, 2012 @ 06:03 pm PST

The only thing that this makes since for is if the world is going to be EMPed then you would probably want the records to play at 78 RPM. the surface will need to be harder than a 33.3 would require as well.

Slowburn
31st December, 2012 @ 06:32 pm PST

Rt1583,

This isn't about resurrecting LPs and 45s. She was just seeing how much detail 3D printing can really create. If she really wanted to cut new records, she could get a vinyl blank and cut a new audio groove into it, the way Edison did the earliest recordings by cutting a groove into a wax cylinder.

The fact is that most of us aren't wedded to the past. Some people claim they can hear the wonders of vinyl, but I doubt they can prove that in blind testing. Meanwhile, the advantages of modern digital music are very hard to ignore. No wear, no need to clean records or handle with care, no need to organize records on shelves or swap them on the turntable, the ability to carry thousands of tunes in the palm of your hand. The age of hi-fi stereos taking up entire shelves is over for most people and it will never return.

Gadgeteer
1st January, 2013 @ 05:19 pm PST

This somewhat reminds me about about a VST plugin meant to simulate the warmth of analog. A turd is a turd even if its goldplated.

As a test of 3D printing - interesting. Musically?

Worthless.

P.S. Those who can't hear the difference between analog or digital recordings, or for that matter mp3 , should get a different hobby.

Didrik Ganetz
2nd January, 2013 @ 02:33 am PST

The 3d printed vinyl is sort of interesting, but since you're probably going to pay more than $100 for a record, not very practical.

3d printing the metal plates used to press vinyl might be more useful, but I suspect it is actually easier to cut a blank with a laser than print the whole thing.

Jon A.
2nd January, 2013 @ 12:56 pm PST

Unfortunately, the conversion from 16bit audio files to vinyl means you'll never get the warm, rich and deep sound most want from vinyl. It's just a glorified CD, with half the lifespan. No thanks.

Jesse Kuch
2nd January, 2013 @ 09:38 pm PST

Why would I take a lower quality digital recording and play it on a turntable? It is an intriguing exercise to show off one's skills, but backwards in it's end result. If one could figure out how to get the range of analog on a more durable medium, that would be an accomplishment worthy to bridge the A/D gap.

Dave Beachler
8th January, 2013 @ 10:10 am PST

@Gadgeteer

The age of hi-fi stereos taking up entire shelves might be over, but some people will never get over it... ;)

A few years ago I've bought a kindle for my mom. She really reads a lot. The walls of my parents house is covered by shelves, full of books. She said that that the Kindle was probably the most wonderful gift she ever got, but it also made her sad. If you can store thousand of books on a single handheld device, it makes all those book that she collected during her entire life useless. And it made her sad.

So I think some people require the feeling, to own things in a physical form. To be able to put them on a shelf. To actually surround themselves with the tings they like. Not because they provide a better quality, but because they are tangible.

cypher
10th January, 2013 @ 08:59 am PST

Digital to 3D conversion uses some dynamic techniques definitely.File converter can do a range of conversions.

Billy Studd
20th March, 2013 @ 11:41 pm PDT
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