Student Experiment Updates Clarinet Reeds Using 3D Printing

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As an elementary school student, I played the clarinet for a brief period of time, although “played” might be putting it a bit too nicely. “Insulted” might be a better word – I was no good at it. I mostly decided to give it a try because its name sounded like my name, which is a good enough reason for a fourth grader. It didn’t last long, and I mostly remember hating the feel of the wooden reeds we had to put in the mouthpiece, the purpose for which I didn’t understand at the time. As it turns out, those reeds are highly important to the sound of the clarinet or to other woodwind instruments like the oboe or saxophone. They act as oscillating valves, working with the resonances of air in the instrument to create an oscillating component of flow and pressure and affect the sound produced.

South Dakota high school senior Krishana Kostal is a much more dedicated clarinetist and marching band member who understands reeds and their purpose, enough that she decided to experiment with the sound differences created by reeds made of different materials than the traditional wood. And as we’ve seen, 3D printing can come into play for optimized instrument mouthpieces.

“In particular, I wanted to learn more about 3D printed parts for musical instruments and about the sound quality of wooden reeds sound – especially when it’s cold,” she explained. “Playing in cold weather conditions with a wooden reed produces a sharper sound, so I wanted to test which reed had a better sound quality in a range of temperatures.”

Kostal designed and 3D printed several different reeds using PLA, ABS, bamboo, and HTPLA filaments. She then analyzed their sound quality compared to a standard wood reed as well as tuning forks for different C octaves. She used a Vernier microphone to assess sound quality by comparing overtones and undertones in normal and cold conditions.

The bamboo filament performed the best in both warm and cold temperatures. The reeds made from bamboo made no noise and showed comparable overtones and undertones to those of the wooden reed. The reeds made from PLA and HTPLA produced no measurable frequencies. Each of them cost $0.03 to produce, compared to wooden reeds which cost around $2.00 each.

Kostal did the experiment for a science fair and earned a second place Grand Award, a $1,000 scholarship and a sustainability award from Ricoh.

“I’m pleased that I was able to produce a practical reed that lasts longer,” Kostal said. “Traditional wooden reeds are easy to break and if not cleaned and used properly can get mold on them. The ones I have produced are easily cleaned and they still maintain the necessary musical quality. I even used my bamboo filament reed at our winter concert.”

Kostal’s high school is one of the more than 400 recipients of polymer 3D printers and STEM curriculum provided by GE as part of the company’s Additive Education Program.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks for the opportunities GE’s AEP is providing my students,” said Julie Olson, science teacher and NSTA/NCTM STEM ambassador at Mitchell High School. “Krishana has used 3D printing to explore the fascinating link between science, engineering and music. And her achievement also shows the rewards and satisfaction that solid, well-planned research can bring.”

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: GE]

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Local firm Arc sees potential in 3D-printing tech

As the white, cube-shaped machine begins to whir at the front of the room, a metal arm can be seen jerking back and forth through the box’s transparent front-facing panel. The robotic mechanism whirs as it works, and onlookers watch as the 3D printer creates a small figurine of a dinosaur out of melted plastic.

“I want to know how to design and print something like this,” said one student, hoisting a different 3D-printed figure of a skeleton mask in the air.

At the first class offered by 3D-printing company Arc Hub Pnh in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, five students learned the basics of the technology and how to incorporate it into their own businesses.

Arch Hub founder KiHow Tran, who is also the director of operations at the co-working space Trybe which hosted the class, began the presentation by giving a brief overview of the software and mechanics involved in the 3D-printing process.

Arc Hub began operating in the Kingdom in 2013, originally setting up shop at a local university with the intention of catering to local businesses that required printed materials.

It soon became clear that 3D printing was not as prolific in Cambodia as Tran had originally hoped, however, and the business soon turned most of its efforts toward teaching young entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts about the applications of 3D printing.

One of the students at Tuesday’s class, Chanpiseth Ly, said that he decided to attend because he was interested in using the technology to help him at his marketing job – although he admitted he wasn’t sure exactly how it could be used yet.

After the class, Ly said he would come back to talk more with Tran about how to best utilise the machine.

For others, like Lyhor Mom, there was a more obvious application. Mom’s sister is launching a new jewellery business, and he said the printer could help speed up the process of making models for new creations.

“For jewellery, we can sometimes use the 3D wax to [model] rings,” he said. “It would be good to learn how to use these machines to do that.”

Tran noted that 3D printing was often used in jewellery making, and could help speed the process of making wax models.

“3D printing is used a huge amount for jewellery making,” he said. “A jeweller used to have to chip away at these wax designs for over a week – but if you 3D print it, it takes just a few hours.”

Arc Hub Pnh’s 3D printer has already helped at least two startups create products in Cambodia so far.

Em Chanrithykol, the founder of Doy Doy, a toy company that uses 3D printing to create connectors to help make plastic straw models, attributed his success to a class taken at Trybe last year.

The firm also helped teach 3D-printing techniques to four young entrepreneurs who began 3D printing their award-winning rat traps following their victory in the Southeast Asia Makerthon in late 2016.

For Tran, the technology represents a chance to revolutionise a variety of businesses and sectors.

“Today, people are 3D-printing houses, 3D-printing gadgets and even trying to 3D-print jewellery straight onto people’s wrists,” he said. “We’ll all be dead by the time they make that happen, but it’s still cool.”