3D printers are being heralded in some quarters as inventions on a par with the printing press – effective and cheap ways of producing bespoke commodities with minimal fuss.
Wired has run a fascinating feature on printing firm Instructables, who have been experimenting with producing vinyl records using the technique. The discs were manufactured using an Objet Connex 500 printer, which has the requisite resolution (600dpi or thereabouts) to build audio-ready grooves into plastic. To create the records, technician Amanda Ghassaei takes a reading of an mp3’s waveform, builds a 3D digital model using Python software, and swiftly ‘prints’ the plastic disc.
As it happens, the resolution is currently only a small fraction of that used in vinyl production, making for a listening experience that even the most cloth-eared listener might call, er, a tad sludgy. At present, the recordings can only be produced at a 11khz sampling rate, which is barely a quarter of the quality of your average mp3. Glitches in the production process also excise frequencies at the higher end of the spectrum.
You can watch Ghassaei’s experiments below. Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, Pixies ‘Debaser’ and Daft Punk’s ‘Around The World’ are among the tracks fed through the wringer.