Thursday, January 16, 2014

Write a tune, get it 3D-printed with Music Drop

Michelle Starr/CNet Australia

(Credit: Left Field Labs)
Though they only allow simple tunes, there's something rather fascinating about music boxes and turning their handles and watching their pin-and-comb mechanisms produce their clear, chiming notes, like a tiny piano. The first music boxes started arriving toward the latter half of the 18th century, but a company called Left Field Labs has offered a modern -- and personal -- twist.

A new project called Music Drops asks you to compose your own 16-note tune using a grid. Clicking the squares indicates which notes are to be played (as far as we can ascertain, the scale starts at A at the top of the grid, and descends nearly two octaves), and you can create chords.

Then the company converts the music to a 3D-printable file using WebGL, and you can order a 3D-printed, drop-shaped music box that plays your tune when you turn the little handle.

Screenshot Michelle Starr/CNET Australia
"We are all about using technology to help humans be, well, more human, and so we updated this small device with some of the emerging technologies of our time," Left Field Labs wrote. "We wanted to create a modern day adaptation to put tech and cheer right in your hand."

Initially, the team planned the more usual cylinder design, but quickly found that the shape dampened sound, and the softness of the plastic could not hold up against the metal of the comb. This led to the disc design, which could withstand the metal better, with a drop-shaped case to provide a natural amplifying effect.

And, at this point, it's free -- although, thanks to a high volume of orders, new orders are currently disabled. You can still sign up, create your tune, and save it. Left Field Labs is creating a backlog, and will e-mail new orders when it is getting ready to do another print run.

Meanwhile, you can head over to the Music Drop Web site, have a play with the software, and save a tune for a rainy day.

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