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3D scanning / 3D printing


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A project at work led me to be curious about whether the techniques of 3D scanning and printing could profitably be employed in organ building?


see http://labrigger.com/blog/2014/10/07/3d-printed-syringe-pump


There must be many cases where a restoration of fiddly legacy/non catalogue parts in old electric or pneumatic mechanisms is required.


Previously this could have caused a problem, but now it is possible to scan an existing part with a laser scanner, (or design in a cad tool) and then to cheaply make as many copies as you want in nylon, resin, and other synthetic materials, perhaps rapidly going through design iterations to ensure a better fit. It seems to be possible to come up with just about any shape.


Any use in organ building? I suppose many components are rather small, and so resolution will be the limiting factor. Another murky issue could be that of infringing the unregistered design right of another manufacturer (by copying their part), but since most obsolete parts will be over 15 years old from the initial design, this probably wouldn't be an issue.

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It's been done - there was an article in the Electronic Organ Constructors' Society magazine a little while back. IIRC the writer used 3-D printing to replicate stop tabs. I've also seen references to the use of the technique in Model Railway magazines.


Every Blessing



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Does anyone have any knowledge of or information regarding the structural integrity of the 'printable' material(s)? Having this capability is one thing, but how long will such stuff last?


Tony also raised the matter of resolution, but proper finishing would presumably still be required.



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The printers are coming down in price rapidly. I haven't done an extensive survey but I keep my eye on the market, and one can now buy a DIY self-assembly printer kit from Velleman (a well-respected firm) for less than £500.


However Henry Willis's remarks are important for the organ world. Today's consumer society exists because of a throw-away-and-buy-new culture, where the disposal and replacement cycle is only a few years at most and often less (look at computers and phones for example). But organs have to last for decades if they are to justify their up-front cost. Even items that look as though they will last for ever at first sight do not live up to their promise. Look at lever arm electromagnets for instance, as used to open pallets and operate stop keys in direct electric actions for example. What could possibly go wrong with them, one might ask. Yet after 20 years or so it's not unusual for them to seize up because the lubricant (typically colloidal graphite) used at the pivot thickens and clogs. So they stop working.


They can be repaired, but at a cost. When there are hundreds in an organ, disconnecting and removing them, knocking out the pivot pins and relubricating and then putting them all back again, means that the labour costs can exceed replacement with new ones - but it's still expensive even then.


Yes, organs are in a class of their own when it comes to the essential longevity issues which are so important.


So 3D printing? It's got a long way to go before organ builders will be converted I reckon, and for good reasons which are in the interests of their customers.



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