A 3D printed phonograph record?

Just a few weeks ago, someone wrote me to ask if I’d heard of anyone ever printing phonograph records with a 3D printer, or if I knew how it could be done. I told him I hadn’t heard of anyone doing it, but if one were interested, theoretically, a record could be 3D scanned in high detail and replicated on a high end, high resolution 3D printer. When you think about it, all the tracks are just wavy areas that can be physically replicated. (I think there’s an interesting business model somewhere in this.)

Anyway, today I saw that someone has indeed used a 3D printer to create a record. It’s a “frivolous” attempt on his Solidoodle SD300 printer, as the maker Scott Elliott readily admits. The grooves weren’t scanned, but were simply “designed.” Here’s his video of the print and then the playing of the record. Before laying the needle down on the record, he warned, “I don’t expect this to sound terribly pleasant.”

I think he was right about the sound quality. As he concludes, “I’d say a 3D printed record doesn’t play too well.” In fairness, he knew it wouldn’t play well, as he said on a blog post, “The grooves look realistic enough to the eye, but they’re too narrow to play back on an ordinary turntable. I tried it, but the needle just skates across the surface. So this 3D printed record is nothing more than a visual novelty.”

But still, it’s an interesting first step. And you know there will be other steps, until we eventually–and I’d say in very short order–see someone perfectly replicate an old LP.

On the Shapeways post where I discovered this record, also linked to a previous post of theirs that showed off a 3D printed record that actually does play a song. Now I remember having seen it in the past, but have since forgotten about it. Here it is, playing “Staying Alive.”

Okay, I got you again. This is not a real record either. This record only plays on a Fisher-Price record player, not a normal player, a children’s toy. Still very cool. You can even buy it at Shapeways for about $42.

We’ve still not yet seen (or at least I haven’t) a real record that was 3D scanned and printed — and actually sounds right on a real phonograph. Anyone up for the challenge?

  • Jerry

    That’s a gramophone record – phonographs played cylinders

    • Not really. Here’s Merriam-Websters definition:

      “an instrument for reproducing sounds by means of the vibration of a stylus or needle following a spiral groove on a revolving disc or cylinder”