Laser Cut Music Box - Computerphile | Summary and Q&A

September 7, 2018
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Laser Cut Music Box - Computerphile


A DIY enthusiast creates a mechanical organ by hand-drawing and laser cutting all parts, then converts MIDI files into SVGs for laser cutting the music strips.

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Key Insights

  • 🤗 The creator used a combination of hand-drawn designs and laser cutting technology to build a mechanical organ from scratch, showcasing their DIY skills.
  • 👻 Converting MIDI files into SVGs allowed the creator to laser cut music strips for the organ, demonstrating their ability to integrate software and hardware.
  • 🦾 The organ operates using compressed air created by bellows, highlighting the mechanical engineering involved in its functioning.
  • 🎵 Knowledge of MIDI file encoding, note on/off signals, and length determination was crucial for successfully converting MIDI files into playable music strips.
  • 🤗 The creator's use of open-source software like Inkscape and their software programming skills contributed to the project's success.
  • 🤣 Ongoing improvements and the plan to create more music rolls show the creator's dedication and passion for their homemade organ.
  • 📱 The creator's previous experience with building a GSM mobile phone demonstrates their diverse range of interests and technical abilities.


i'll show you what it does and then then i'll explain how it works if that's all right so i'll just turn this handle and see what happens i got some parts of the design off the off the internet um but then i've modified a bit and everything was um hand drawn i didn't have all the computer files for it so i had to redraw all of that um so i could th... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the creator make the parts for the mechanical organ?

The creator hand-drew the design and modified it, then used Inkscape to convert it into SVG files for laser cutting using the Nottingham laser cutter.

Q: How did the creator convert MIDI files into SVGs?

The creator wrote a program in C that converts MIDI files into SVGs. They identified the note on and note off signals in the MIDI file to determine the length of each note.

Q: How does the organ generate compressed air?

As the handle is turned, bellows at the bottom of the organ go up and down, creating compressed air. The air is stored in a reservoir to prevent over-pressurization.

Q: How many songs can the organ play?

Currently, the organ has four rolls of music, including songs like the birdie song, the chicken dance, and enter the gladiators. The creator plans to make more rolls as an ongoing project.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The creator hand-draws and modifies the design for a mechanical organ and laser cuts all the parts using Inkscape and the Nottingham laser cutter.

  • They write a program to convert MIDI files into SVGs, allowing them to load the SVG into the laser cutter software and cut out the music strips.

  • The organ operates by using compressed air created by bellows, and the handle also drives the paper along to change the music.

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