Building a six-channel floppy drive synth from start to finish

floppy

We’ve seen scores of floppy drives play music, but never before have we seen a project as clean as [Rupert]‘s Moppyduino. It’s an Arduino-based board that controls the stepper motors in six separate floppy drives, coaxing them in to playing music from a MIDI file.

The Moppyduino is more than just a convenient way to control the stepper motors in six floppy drives. It’s also a great example of what can be done with home PCB fabrication; the entire project was designed and constructed in [Rupert]‘s workshop.

After designing the circuit, [Rupert] printed it out on a laser printer onto a plastic transparency sheet. This was transferred over to a copper clad board, etched, and drilled. After assembly, [Rupert] attached a USB FTDI controller to receive data converted from MIDI data with a Java app.

The end result – housed in a custom Corian enclosure – is one of the best looking floppy drive synths we’ve ever seen. You can check out the process of building this awesome instrument after the break.

27 thoughts on “Building a six-channel floppy drive synth from start to finish

  1. nice work and etching! I would really like to know more about that etching technique. Mostly about printing part what was that transparent material and how did he bake it on board ,if anyone knows please teach me :)

    1. That’s the toner transfer method. He printed the design to be etched on a transparency using a laser printer and then passed it through a laminator with the board.

    1. Hi Ultrawipf

      It took around a week to build,on an off. Luckily the enclosure design is easily scaled up :)

      I like your build also!, Is the code and midi standalone or is it a slave to the computer like Moppy ?

      Cheers

      Rupert

      1. i used moppy advanced and modified the arduino code to work with my setup.
        What do you think about stacking drives on each other with some small metal bars?
        Your pcb is great and maybe you could add some kind of “special light effects” with the remaining pins.

          1. There are many free midi sites where i get my songs. It took me some hours to edit the song. It was harder than the others. I am afraid that metal could vibrate too much and kill the sound.

          2. Obviously I don’t know for sure, since I haven’t tried it, but I almost suspect the metal would vibrate and make the sound even louder. If I were more of a carpenter I would try making some sort of resonating structure like a guitar to mount them to.

  2. Lots more floppy drives to expand the “tone”al range. NEC made a linear actuator 3.5″ drive which made a pretty high pitched but low volume sound. Would likely have to augment its volume with a mic and amp. Then there’s the 5.25″ half height drives. Use the old full height drives for even lower pitches and monster old 8″ drives for some bass notes. Try some of the super slim laptop floppy drives too.

    1. The smaller drives sound really bad and are too quiet to make some music.
      The 5.25″ are cool. I hope i can get some. But even with the normal floppy drives have big differences in sound. Some drives sound really smooth and others rattle and are very loud and if you use them together you can get some good results.
      The same with hard disks. 3.5″ can be used to make cool sounds but 2.5″ are useless. They are too quiet or are just good to make clicking sounds.

        1. Yes i can confirm that. My best drives are also ALPS.
          But the 5,25″ drives are not only expensive but also need some more Power ;) and as far as i know they step only 80 steps in one direction and not 160

          1. Gotta love stepper music!

            And to think I trashed at least thirty 5.25″ Alps, Teac and IBM FDD’s a couple years ago. Course, I probably still have around twenty left in my attic along with a 1.2G SCSI FH 5.25″ (maxtor or micropolis, I think) that if it dropped on it would break my foot.

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