3D Printed Flutes

3D Modelling and Printing of Custom-Designed Flutes explores the potential for 3D printing to change the music industry by creating custom-designed flutes that can be played in a variety of microtonal scales.

Researcher Terumi Narushima says the project combines the field of microtonal music, which is a relatively new area of study, with the emerging technology of 3D printing to create instruments that are not feasible within standard manufacturing.

The project focuses on designing 3D printed flutes which are tested in the University of Wollongong’s Anechoic Chamber. The researchers believe the project can play a big role in the future of the music industry with the potential to recreate rare and customised instruments and help musicians achieve unique sounds.

“The project takes a different attitude to music-making,” Dr Narushima said. “It’s about not taking the status quo for granted. What kind of new instruments and new music can we create?”

This project looks set to challenge the traditional methods of manufacturing musical instruments with consumers having the power to specify the tuning of their instrument to suit their needs and then print them on demand. 

Revolutionising the music industry

Hear how team members from multiple disciplines have collaborated on the 3D printed flute project.

Project outcomes and publications

Composition and performance using 3D printed flutes in music for a theatre project called Yasukichi Murakami: Through a Distant Lens, presented at the Darwin Festival (August 2014), Shinju Matsuri in Broome and OzAsia Festival in Adelaide (September 2014) and Griffin Theatre in Sydney (February, 2015).

Christian Ritz, Matthew Dabin, Terumi Narushima, Kraig Grady, and Stephen Beirne "3D printing for custom design and manufacture of microtonal flutes", SPIE Newsroom, September 18, 2015

Awarded the 2014 Vice-Chancellor's Award for Interdisciplinary Research Excellence


In the media   

3D printing creates a flute which makes beautiful sounds, Sydney Morning Herald, June 6-7, 2015, pg 17
3D printed flutes set to revolutionise music industry, UOW Newsroom, June 6, 2015
You can now custom print musical instruments that play any notes in existence, Science Alert, June 9, 2015
3D-printed flutes hit the right note, Gizmag, June 16, 2015
3D-printed flutes can produce notes that regular flutes can't, Gizmodo, June 18, 2015 and Gizmodo UK, June 20, 2015
Embracing Innovation: Volume 5 and Daylights, Craft ACT, Sydney Morning Herald, July 31, 2015
Indonesia MetroTVNews, June 21, 2015
This 3D printed flute hits high notes better than a traditional flute, Ubergizmo, June 19, 2015 
This 3D-printed flute can play new microtones, Slashgear, June 19, 2015
3D-printed flutes can produce notes that regular flutes can't, Electrical Engineering Journal, June 19, 2015
Music composer 3D prints one-of-a-kind flutes that play new sounds, 3D Print.com, June 5, 2015
3D printed flutes hit the right notes. UOW Research & Innovation News, Jan-Mar 2014, pp. 16-17
ACES use 3D printers to play a different kind of tune, UOW's Electromaterials News, Aug 2014
3D printing a custom designed flute, 3D printing industry, August 30, 2014 
Interview and short musical performance, The Music Show, ABC Radio National, 6 Sep 2014
Short performance, RN Drive, ABC Radio National, 9 Sep 2014 

The team

3D Modelling and Printing of Custom-Designed Flutes brings together researchers from backgrounds in music, engineering and the arts. 

Dr Terumi Narushima is a researcher, composer, performer and lecturer in UOW’s Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts specialising in microtonal tuning systems in music. Dr Narushima’s investigates various tools for developing and analysing new tuning resources for music composition and performance.

Associate Professor Christian Ritz is a researcher in UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences. He specialises in digital signal processing for speech, audio and acoustics and manages UOW’s anechoic (non-echo) chamber. In addition, A/Prof Ritz has undertaken research investigating the design and construction of miniature custom microphone arrays using 3D printing technology.

Dr Stephen Beirne is a Research Fellow and Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Additive Fabrication Manager of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute(IPRI)/Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) at UOW. Dr Beirne utilizes a range of custom additive fabrication tools that allow researchers to access a highly flexible means of device design and production. His research expertise includes additive fabrication techniques, materials and rapid prototyping.

Kraig Grady is a MCA-R candidate in UOW’s Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts. He is an expert in microtonal music and has extensive experience as an instrument builder, composer and performer. He brings knowledge of instrument-making and microtonal tuning theory to the project.

Mathew Dabin is a PhD candidate in digital signal processing and acoustics. He has developed a number of devices using 3D printing, including microphone sensor arrays and a traditional recorder. His experience in advanced 3D modelling, CFD simulation and engineering application development, as well as his background in music, make him uniquely suited to work as a research assistant on this project.



This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure .  Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals