CNC music factory Still Alive

With some careful programming and probably tedious testing, [Tim] was able to get his CNC router to play [Jonathan Coulton's] “Still Alive”. He didn’t just tell the motors to spin at the correct speeds directly though. He computed the 3d vectors necessary to produce the notes. The router thinks it is just doing its job.  We would love to see those vectors rendered out in 3d space. Imagine having a physical sculpture of “Still Alive” as seen by a CNC machine. This reminds us of the Obsolete Technology Band.

[via Skullydazed's twitter]


  1. beStill says:

    that is SO COOL!

  2. ziarkaen says:

    Reminds me of ending up modifying various hardware and running cables all through the building to solve a software problem with a 2 minute fix.

    It’s the satisfaction of perfection…

  3. jamiem says:

    And I was expecting the song “Everybody Dance Now.” Still very cool project.

  4. Hah, yeah i’ve been wanting to do a 3D song thing for a while with our CNC, but i have no idea where to even start. It would most likely just dull a good tool from the varying RPM’s. I’m sure i could find a bad tool with mostly good edges, but still, anyone have any ideas on how to start?

    Also, WTF is actually happening in the video? i can’t even see any cutting going on.

  5. strider_mt2k says:

    The thought of manufacturing machines singing this song to themselves while working is nothing less than chilling.


  6. spudw says:

    Sounds like a pump organ with a hole in it at some parts. :) Seriously though, what a task to accomplish. Incredible and well done.

  7. Sean says:

    Taylor> It’s not cutting at all, it’s the stepper motors stepping at different speeds which is generating the tones. It’s using X and Y as two different voices. I didn’t see if the router was going up and down so there might have a 3rd Z voice.

  8. pokey says:

    IIRC at least one model of HP ScanJet understood SCSI command that would play arbitrary notes with the scan head drive motor. There was some tune that it would play out of ROM if you held on the scan button while powering it on as well.

  9. dan says:

    i love the idea of machines singing away to themselves at night, when nobody is around. they could have an orchestra!

  10. jpc says:

    Cool. However, if someone were to give me a cnc mill, or if I ever finish the one I’ve been working on I can think of much better uses than this. Oh, well, who am I to judge someone’s muse?

  11. allen says:

    I like how he used rubber tube and pipe clamps to attatch the motor shafts to the ball-screw. I’ve been trying to figure out a cheap way to do that for a while now for my own mill.

  12. AridTag says:

    Very impressive!

  13. Cabe says:

    Making a note….

    Huge Success!

  14. sban says:

    “The thought of manufacturing machines singing this song to themselves while working is nothing less than chilling.”

    I thought exactly the same !

  15. BigD145 says:

    Will it also give me a lobotomy?

  16. kyle007 says:

    This was a triumph.

  17. kyle007 says:

    I was just thinking of that day we all quoted that song in the comments I though it was funny and I cant seem to find it…

  18. John says:

    Pure genius.

  19. bababooey says:

    thats awesome!

  20. FIRESTORM_v1 says:

    I’ve always wanted a CNC mill. Now I want one even more.

  21. Adam Ziegler says:
  22. curtis says:

    you airdtag are someone speacial never forget that but you must let the world know who you are from the experiences and dreams you fullfill

  23. Kevin says:

    F1 car playing some music

  24. Tim says:

    @sean: The song is mostly 2-note, but there are a few places where it busts into a full 3-note harmony. Still Alive was a very good first test since it never has more than 3 notes on at any given time. I’d like to play ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’, but it’s too complex to sound good on a 3-axis machine :)

  25. IC BS says:

    Well, the song is nice, but the cake is still a lie!

  26. maxspam says:

    @ Ic bs
    Someone just had to do it.

  27. weasel says:

    GlaDOS would be proud of her minions

  28. Bool says:

    not as good as that one, not even hackish, but I’m proud of it:

    I did it some time ago

  29. Javier says:

    Bohemian Rhapsody played with an Atari 800XL, a hard drive, floppy drive and several scanners.

  30. bloodyalbatross says:

    The resulting 3D model would presumable resemble a cake (as mentioned in a comment on youtube). ;)

  31. lionel baden says:

    Dude that glados site is so cool
    Really loving it !!!

    another very well made one (now with horrible comments plastered over the top of it :()

  32. Josh Grobly says:

    Great post man (or woman!)… Love your writing! Can’t wait to see more. Is there a subscribe feature here?

  33. Thanks for the great post! This blog really is great and offers a lot of insight!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96,369 other followers