Printing Custom Music Boxes


Music Drop is a well-executed concept that re-imagines the classic, hand-wound music-box in a form suitable for hobbyist 3D printers. But rather than being a one-off art project, its designers have also built a custom web UI for composing new songs:


The site still left me wondering how much one of these toys costs (since they print and assemble it for you); but it still serves as a perfect example for a 3D printer-backed business that costs nearly nothing to operate (since you create products on demand.)

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3D printing circuit boards


The ability to print circuits has been a RepRap goal from nearly the beginning. In order for a printer to replicate, it needs this ability. If you dig through the forums, you’ll find plenty of people working on this problem, but none close to selling a machine that hobbyists can buy. (And please correct me if I’m wrong on that — I’d love to see more of these.) That’s what makes the EX1 on Kickstarter special. It’s more “circuit plotter” than “3d printer”; but if we ignore that, what we have is a consumer-usable device that eliminates one of the road-blocks in sharing and prototyping electronic hardware.


The results don’t compare to custom boards and pick-n-place machine quality, but that’s not the point. Much like consumer 3D printing, the EX1 allows rapid prototyping and exploration before sending a design off for professional production. Furthermore, because it’s just laying down conductive paths, you can put these on a variety of materials. This capability gives the device huge potential.

When this technology takes off, we won’t just be printing holiday ornaments for our trees — we’ll be printing the ornaments and the circuit board for the LEDs!

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3D printing keys for physical locks

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When you can make anything, the possession of physical objects no longer carries any particular value (sentiment aside.) And when security is tied to the possession of an object (e.g., a key), being able to programmatically replicate the object raises some interesting intellectual topics.

Now, there’s a whole industry around bypassing physical locks. Locksmiths, picking enthusiasts, manufacturers, and criminals continue to advance the trade. And for the most part, if someone with resources wants to bypass a lock, it’s going to happen. But the idea that a computer could replicate a key using a 3D printer is still fascinating. Add CCTV and computer vision to this, and you have a sci-fi future where simply displaying a key in public is enough to compromise security.

One approach for addressing this is to increase the machining complexity of a key. While simple keys can be made with a blank and hand-files, more advanced keys can require manufacturing equipment that’s out-of-reach for the average criminal. This is where 3D printing offers disruption.

To see it in action, check out “Physical Keygen: Now for Disc Detainer Locks“. It’s what happens when you combine the curiosity of an artist and a lock-enthusiast. Even more interesting, is that the 3D models were built using OpenScad, and open sourced at The OpenScad files were written such that the key patterns are parameterized. For the supported keys, you print the Key Gauge, measure a working key, and enter the numbers into the OpenScad script to generate a matching STL. Print the STL, and you’re on your way to unrestricted access (or more likely, a broken piece of plastic stuck in your lock ;-)

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