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Creating Physical Sound Waves from Audio Clips
Posted by 3DP4E

By Jason Brick | PSFK

“Man…I can smell colors and feel sounds” used to be the bailiwick of Cheech, Chong and Carlos Castenada but may now be a common reality thanks to advances in 3D printing.

Although it has existed for decades, recent advances in the technology and breaks on price point have poised 3D printing to be one of the breakout technologies of 2014. Industries from fashion to medicine to postal services have felt and applied its impact since this time last year.

Maker Isaac Powellhas recently posted instructions for using 3D printing to create a physical model of sound waves ranging from a snippet of a song to a toddler saying “I love you, Grandma” to create and give as a holiday gift this season. The process is simple, although some of the steps require mildly specialized knowledge and/or equipment.

Step One: Take or select an audio recording

Step Two: Use an audio editor like Audacity to extract the file and trim it to just the section you want to print.

Step Three: Take a screenshot of the sound waves shown on the editor interface

Step Four: Convert the screenshot to a vector file.

Step Five: Use a graphics program like Paintshop to cut the sounds waves in half horizontally, so you have a flat mountable surface on one side

Step Six: Move the graphics file to a 3D modeling program like 3DS Max.

Step Seven: Make necessary adjustments to create the 3D design you want.

Step Eight: Print the sound wave.

Step Nine: Mount it in a frame, turn it into a Christmas tree ornament, or anything else you can think of.

Although some of the steps may seem intimidating to beginning makers and DIY buffs, all of the software involved has at least one freeware version available, and none of the skills take more than an hour to learn.

Although Mr. Powell presented his idea as a simple DIY project for families to share with each other, the potential for the concept is broad-reaching. How many Justin Bieber fans would pay $30 for a pendant with the refrain of his newest song? How many poets would design a wall hanging of their favorite verse? There’s even a cryptography application that would go great in the next Tom Clancy novel or Bourne movie.

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