Crowd Funding

Support for ‘SongBird’ 3D printed self-assembly turntable takes-off on Kickstarter

UK-based 3D printing start-up Frame Theory 3D has developed a turntable kit that can be additive manufactured and assembled at home into a functional record player. 

Nicknamed the ‘SongBird,’ the firm’s DIY gadget can reportedly be manufactured using most desktop systems, and has been designed as an educational tool to teach users the basics of 3D printing. Due to launch this October, the turntable kit is available for backing on Kickstarter now, and has so far managed to raise over $21,800, more than double its initial goal of $10,000. 

“The Songbird is an educational, 3D printable turntable kit designed to be printed on almost any home 3D printer,” said Charlie Ransford, Co-Founder of Frame Theory 3D. “Each instructional step in the build explains not only what the user is doing, but why, in a hands-on learning experience for the user.”

“It’s long been said that the revolution begins at home. Now, with Frame Theory 3D, that statement has never been more true.”

Remixing desktop 3D printing 

Ransford initially developed the SongBird as part of a final-year university project, before teaming-up with photographer and ex-classmate Kiran Pearce, to commercialize his design. Having spent over a year prototyping their home-made turntable, the entrepreneurial duo have finally come up with two saleable products: the ‘Printed’ Kit and ‘Maker’ Kit. 

While the former comes with a full set of pre-printed parts, that provides adopters with all they’ll need to assemble their own SongBird, the latter is designed for the purist. Aside from the turntable’s brass bearing, a CNC-cut aluminum frame, motor and a counterweight for the device’s tonearm, the rest needs to be produced by users via FDM 3D printing. 

The content of the Maker Kit includes digital instructions for beginners, and the firm says that any system with a 220 x 220 x 50mm build plate should be sufficient. What’s more, the device’s 3D printed body and motor housing come pre-mounted to an aluminum support, and the design is solder-free, making things manageable for novices. 

In terms of assembly, Ransford and Pearce say that the SongBird can be built, set-up and be ready to bang out tunes in less than two hours. The design duo haven’t posted an exhaustive list of compatible systems, but they claim that most “household printers” with sufficiently-sized build plates should be fine, having tested a number of popular Prusa and Creality machines. 

Frame Theory 3D's SongBird 3D printed turntable.
Frame Theory 3D says that its SongBird 3D printed turntable (pictured) can be built in less than two hours. Image via Frame Theory 3D.

Time to break out the vinyls

Once built, the SongBird essentially comprises a metal frame with a motor assembly mounted on one end and the tonearm on the other, with a vinyl platter sitting in the middle. The device rests on three adjustable feet, and also features combined tonearm and tracking weights as well as an acrylic slipmat, that are designed to enhance the player’s ease-of-use. 

Those with home sound systems can plug the SongBird directly into their amplifier set-up via its in-built RCA outputs, and while the device’s compatibility remains unconfirmed, it appears to be capable of playing singles or full albums. What’s more, Pearce and Ransford say, “We not only create products and designs that are intended to last a long time, we teach you how to make them.”

The SongBird’s campaign met its initial funding target within hours, and received backing from MyMiniFactory, Bath Spa University and A H Dodd & Co amongst others. Using the funding raised, the design duo now intend to build on their range of 3D printable product kits, without outsourcing any production to outside the U.K.

At time of writing, the Kickstarter still has 26 days left to run, with pledges starting at £135 ($190) for a Maker Kit or £212 ($300) for a Printed Kit. All going well, the turntables are expected to start shipping in October 2021. 

The SongBird turntable's 3D printed parts along with the kit's packing instructions.
Adopters can choose between ordering all the SongBird’s parts or 3D printing them instead. Image via Frame Theory 3D.

DIY 3D printing innovations 

Many of FDM 3D printing’s most inventive designs continue to come from the maker community, and their creators often turn to crowdfunding to get these ideas off the ground. Watchmaking enthusiast Mechanistic, for instance, has raised over $70,000 towards their luxury 3D printed timepiece, via a crowdfunding campaign on 3D file marketplace MyMiniFactory.

Last year, in a similar home-made 3D printing project, open-source enthusiast Johan Von Konow released plans for a modular additive manufactured MIDI synth. Buildable for a total of just $6, the multifunctional device can be used either as a keyboard, drum pad, chord keyboard, arpeggiator or step sequencer, making it useful for music training applications. 

Elsewhere, student YouTuber Lucas VRTech has also taken on an ambitious home printing project, by using 3D printing to create low-cost finger-tracking VR gloves. Costing just $11 each, the open-source gloves provide users with the ability to track their fingers without the use of VR controllers, and Lucas VRTech is working on adding haptic feedback as well. 

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Featured image shows Frame Theory 3D’s ‘SongBird’ 3D printed turntable. Image via Frame Theory 3D.