Years ago, 3D printing may have seemed like little more than a cool toy, but as we've seen things progress leading up to today, we can now see otherwise. Look no further than our recent roundup of three different consumer-level printer models. Sure - building miniature models is one thing, but others have even found even more important uses - such as building an exoskeleton for a little girl. I think it's safe to say that things are only going to be getting better.
For music lovers, the lingering question has been what can be accomplished here. I'm sure we'll learn of some musical instruments created with 3D printing in the future, but for now, we have a story of someone who created an entire 33 RPM record sourced from a digital file. And, it's playable. However, this is where certain limitations of current 3D printing technologies become clear.
As old as LP design may be, records remain incredibly detailed in their design and sound reproduction - so much so, that current 3D printers cannot match the resolution needed for a perfect copy. Not even a printer that retails for $250,000 and can print at a 600 DPI resolution - the Object Connex500. This was the exact model Amanda Ghassaei used to create a record at 11kHz and 5 - 6-bit resolution. By comparison, a modern MP3 has a sampling frequency of 44kHz and bit-depth of 16-bit.
The result, as can be seen in the linked-to article, is not too hot. It's hard to describe without actually listening to it, so I'd recommend that. It's not simply a sound that's "low bitrate", though it effectively is. Because of the low detail, the scratching of the record itself is far more audible - and a bit spacey.
None of this puts a damper on modern 3D printing capabilities, however, because as we've seen major progression these past few years, there's little doubt that in time, perfect records will be able to be printed, along with other highly-detailed objects. Though, if a current $250K model can't do it today, that sort of fine-tuning may not reach consumer hands for quite some time.