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Have you ever wondered what a 3D-printed saxophone sounds like?

Can you make a 3D-printed saxophone that’s a fraction as heavy as a “normal” one but sounds, to the untrained ear, virtually the same? Yes. I mean, you probably couldn’t, but luthier Olaf Diegel has done exactly that. Diegel took a break from making high-end 3D-printed guitars and tried his hand at the complex key structure of an alto saxophone, producing a prototype that’s made almost entirely of printed plastic. It requires a bigger, better printer than most consumers will ever own, and Diegel’s still working on integrating 3D-printed springs instead of metal ones.

We all know that 3D printers are great for churning out plastic trinkets and tiny sculptures of questionable artistic worth, but what makes the technology truly exciting is when users push the its current limitations to create something remarkable, like a playable plastic saxophone that doesn’t sound half bad. The New York Philharmonic probably isn’t going to be placing orders for Olaf Diegel’s 3D-printed saxophone just yet, but after just half a year’s worth of work he’s managed to create a 3D printed sax that sounds like the real thing. The occasional sour note is a result of spots where air manages to escape the instrument, but Olaf is working on getting the last of those leaks sealed so that every note produced by the sax is in key. There are 41 nylon components that go into the final, playable saxophone, not including springs for the various keys and screws to keep the whole thing together. The resulting instrument ends up weighing less than a quarter of what a brass version does, and that could very well be a great way to encourage musicians to make the switch. That, and the fact you can print this in any color you want, making it perfect for college marching bands who want to reflect their school’s official colors.

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