Organic Music? A Look at Laser Cutter Records
What’s retro, organic, good for the environment, and fun to listen to? If you answered wooden records, you win the prize. While lasers and the introduction of the compact disc largely killed the vinyl record, a creative software engineer, Amanda Ghassaei, has resurrected the lowly album using wood and a laser cutter.
The result is a surprisingly beautiful platter with the familiar shape and circular ridges found on vinyl albums. The grain of the wood adds an organic quality, elevating the disc to an object d’art.
Because cutting into wood, even with a high tech laser cutter, is less precise than cutting into vinyl – at least with the technology used by the engineer – the ridges of the wooden album are about twice as large as those on a standard vinyl album.
Ghassaei originally used a 3D printer to experiment with different ways to play music, but ultimately realized that most people don’t have access to expensive 3D printers. In contrast, CNC laser cutters are more accessible. Ghassaei started by ripping audio data from a WAV file and then processing it with a script she developed for the purpose.
While the laser-cut wooden record plays music just like its vinyl siblings, the sound quality is poor. A video posted on Vimeo shows the record in action, allowing you to see and hear it in all of its glory. The large ridges are thought to be responsible for the distorted sound. However despite awful sound quality, pressing your own wooden records has its charm. Not only is this idea unique and fun, it takes music out of the airwaves and brings it back down to Earth. If you’re interested in cutting your own wooden albums with a laser cutter, Ghassaei has posted her instructions online.
If you want to make a wooden record with a laser cutter, you can use Ghassaei’s script, which is available on her website as a downloadable PDF vector file, as a guide. The script can be edited to accommodate different laser cutters, materials, sizes, and turntable speeds. Once you’ve downloaded and edited the script as well as sourced your materials and laser cutter, the laser cutter uses the vector file as a pattern and cuts the grooves.
Though impractical and low-fi, Ghassaei’s wooden albums are a throwback to a simpler time. A time when friends would gather together to listen to an album. A time when listening to music also had a tactile element that could impact the music for better or for worse. Those who took extraordinary care of their albums enjoyed a pristine listening experience while those who didn’t suffered from scratches and skips. By pulling music out of the airwaves and 4G networks and physically cutting it onto a wooden disc, Ghassaei has made music tangible, and perhaps sociable, once again. By sharing her process and script, she has made it possible for anyone who longs for a simpler time to create their own wooden albums. While you may or may not recapture your lost youth, you’ll definitely end up with a conversation starter.
Mark Williams, the author of this article, is a science and technology nerd who has interned at Coherent, a laser solution supplier. During his internship, he learned about the various uses of laser cutting machines and laser cladding applications.
(Image Credit – Bing Images )
If you found this article interesting and informative, please be sure to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter as well as daily email / RSS Feeds at SourceTech411 .