3D Printing A Synthesizer

Before there were samplers, romplers, Skrillex, FM synths, and all the other sounds that don’t fit into the trailer for the new Blade Runner movie, electronic music was simple. Voltage controlled oscillators, voltage controlled filters, and CV keyboards ruled the roost. We’ve gone over a lot of voltage controlled synths, but [Tommy] took it to the next level. He designed a small, minimum viable synth based around the VCO in an old 4046 PLL chip

For anyone who remembers [Elliot]’s Logic Noise series here on Hackaday, this type of circuit should be very familiar. The only thing in this synth is a few buttons, a variable resistor for each button, and the very popular VCO for an analog square wave synth.

The circuit for this synth is built in two halves. The biggest, and what probably took the most time designing, is the key bed. This is a one-octave keyboard that’s completely 3D printed. We’ve seen something like this before in one of the projects from the SupplyFrame Design Lab residents, though while that keyboard worked it was necessary for [Tim], the creator of that project, to find a company that could make custom key beds for him.

The rest of the circuit is just a piece of perf board and the 4046. This project is all wrapped up in a beautiful all-wood enclosure with 3D printed hinges, knobs, and a speaker grille. The sound is phenomenal, and exactly what you want from a tiny monophonic square wave synth. You can check out a video of that below.


13 thoughts on “3D Printing A Synthesizer

  1. Why not use a 555. Kiss.

    I got (50years ago) from junior high shop class a similar keyboard with fixed resistors (no tuning) and one tube on a little chassis with a 4 inch speaker. Lost interest and it got junked long ago.

  2. One of the various electronics kits I had as a kid included a “Pencil Synthesizer”: you would draw a thick black graphite bar on a sheet of paper, then place two leads on it. The further apart they are, the lower the tone. Obviously it was just an R/C oscillator with the graphite serving as the R, but you could figure out where the different tones could be and then draw a keyboard around it and play!

  3. Even the sound reminds me of the “xx in one” electronics kits of 70’s 80’s

    I didn’t look up the chip used, seems that it is mono-phonic. With such small number of keys it would be interesting to make a complete poly-phonic.

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