While there are scores for 3D printed recorders and whistles on Thingiverse and elsewhere online, and despite delicious rumors of gorgeous 3D printed organ pipes that have not yet been posted, there are only a handful of more complex wind instruments produced via 3D printing. Well, here’s a project suggested to us by Matt Stultz on 3DPPVD.org that is remarkable not just for where the maker hopes to take it — extending the range of the instrument — but also for successful it is at nailing the being-a-bagpipe side of things. From Matt Stultz:
Often we get too caught up with the technology behind 3D printing and don’t spend enough time thinking about the wide range of things we can do with our printers. Sometime we need to stop and smell the roses and listen to a merry tune. Now with the Dreaming Pipes project… your printer can create you a set of bagpipes (or a few other traditional instruments) so you can play your own tune. I’m really excited to see a project that is not only looking to use 3D printing to take a classic instrument to new levels but also make it affordable and easy for anyone to build….
Ever since taking up the Scottish Smallpipes, like many pipers I’ve been curious about the idea of extending the range of the instrument. It seems like a natural progression. As pipers, when we take to the Smallpipes, it’s often to play with other musicians, and different instruments. I’ve been fortunate enough to have played the Smallpipes in a wide variety of settings, for a wide range of musicians and producers, and have often been in situations where I’ve wished I could just play something that’s out of the range of my instrument.
…The use of technology is well established in the bagpipe making community, with CNC-milled instruments already widely played, so it wasn’t a great leap to start to consider the possibilities of 3D printing, as a medium to prototype ideas that would have been difficult for me to model in other ways. So in early 2013, taking with me the note book I’d filled with the results of my various experiments, I made my way to The Lighthouse in Glasgow. Built by Charles Rennie MacKintosh as his first public commission, The Lighthouse was at the time the home of MakLab, the first maker’s laboratory I was aware of in Glasgow. At time of writing, MakLab is in the process of moving to larger premises in the Charing Cross area of Glasgow.
At MakLab, I learned to use 3D printers, beginning with the original Ultimaker. Printing chanters vertically, using a ‘built-in’ sole as the support, and no support material (it destroys the instrument’s tone), I was able to print several chanters to different designs, before work and life commitments meant that I no longer had time to spare for a while. Moving on to Shapeways, as being quicker for me (if a little more expensive), I continued prototyping. By February this year I was ready to print a full set of Smallpipes. To keep costs down, and for reasons related to the large chalice-style tops I’m currently using, the first print is essentially a set of “Parlour Pipes” having separate drone stocks. It maintains the Bass-Baritone-Tenor arrangement common to Smallpipes however, and internally experiments with a couple of the more basic ideas I have for drone design.
The pipes, printed by 3DprintUk in London, arrived yesterday (14th March), and I was lucky to be able to pay a visit to Ronnie McShannon at Pipe Dreams in Glasgow, for help with the reeds, and James Begg of Piping Perfection in Glasgow, who kindly supplied a good quality bag for the instrument….
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