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Printing Mozart's Piano

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Additive Manufacturing Education

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Paper Authors


Warren Rosen Drexel University

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Dr. Warren Rosen received his Ph.D. in physics from Temple University. He has served as Assistant Professor of Physics at Colby and Vassar Colleges where he carried out research in solar physics, medical physics, and instrumentation. Following this experience he was a research scientist at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster, PA where he established a laboratory for research in high-performance computer networks and architectures for mission avionics and signal processing systems, and served as the Navy’s representative on several national and international standards committees. In 1997 joined the staff of Drexel University, first as a research professor in the Electrical And Computer Engineering Department and later as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology. Also in 1997, Dr. Rosen founded Rydal Research and Development, Inc., which has carried out research in networking devices and protocols for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research. Dr. Rosen is the author or co-author of over 80 publications and conference proceedings and the holder of six U.S. patents in computer networking and signal processing.

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Yalcin Ertekin Drexel University

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Dr. Ertekin received his BS degree in mechanical engineering from Istanbul Technical University. He received MS degree in Production Management from Istanbul University. After working for Chrysler Truck Manufacturing Company in Turkey as a project engineer, he received dual MS degrees in engineering management and mechanical engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology (MS&T), formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla. He worked for Toyota Motor Corporation as a quality assurance engineer for two years and lived in Toyota City, Japan. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MS&T in 1999 while he worked as a quality engineer for Lumbee Enterprises in St. Louis, Missouri. His first teaching position was at the architectural and manufacturing Sciences department of Western Kentucky University. He was a faculty at Trine University teaching mainly graduate courses as well as undergraduate courses in engineering technology and mechanical engineering departments. He is currently teaching in Engineering Technology Program at Drexel University. His area of expertise is in CAD/CAM, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining, rapid prototyping and quality control. His research interest includes sensor based condition monitoring of CNC machining, machine tool accuracy characterization and enhancement, non-invasive surgical tool design, reverse engineering and bio materials.

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M. Eric Carr Drexel University Orcid 16x16

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Mr. Eric Carr is an Instructor with Drexel University’s Department of Engineering Technology. A graduate of Old Dominion University’s Computer Engineering Technology program and Drexel's College of Engineering, Eric enjoys finding innovative ways to use microcontrollers and other technologies to enhance Drexel’s Engineering Technology course offerings. Eric is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Computer Engineering at Drexel, and is an author of several technical papers in the field of Engineering Technology Education.

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Bret Alan Davis Intel

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Bret Davis received his B.S. degree in Engineering Technology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is currently working as a System Validation Engineer at Intel. Bret’s research interests involve Digital Electronics, Mechatronics, and Automation Systems.

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Michael Cassidy Drexel University

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I am a continuing education student in the Drexel University Electrical Engineering Technology program.

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The piano that Mozart, Haydn, and the young Beethoven used to compose the music of the classical era (often referred to as a “fortepiano”) was very different from the modern concert grand instrument of Steinway, Bösendorfer, et al. in a number of important ways. It was much smaller (~3’ x 7’ vs. ~5’ x 9’) and almost 80% lighter. The keys were 1/3 shorter and the keystroke half as long and much lighter. There were only 63 keys, vs. the 88-key modern piano. It also used knee levers rather that foot pedals. These differences made for a very different tactile experience when playing the instrument. More important were the differences in sound produced by the instrument. The sound was very light and precise, with lower maximum volume. The sustain is very short. As a result, the piano of the late 18th century looked, sounded, and felt very different from the modern version.

These differences had a major impact on the way classical composers composed, and it is difficult to completely understand music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries without understanding (and hearing) these differences. Accurate reproductions of Mozart’s piano are available but these can cost in excess of $60,000 new, due to the large number of parts that must be hand carved from wood, as well as the string/soundboard system. The high cost limits the availability to academic musicologists or anyone simply interested in hearing the music the way it sounded to Mozart and Haydn.

This paper describes a senior design project aimed at using modern techniques such as 3D printing and electronic signal processing to build a hybrid replica of Mozart’s piano with accurate feel and sound quality but at a cost of ~$2,000. The keybox and soundboard are accurate reproductions of the original, but the expensive, labor-intensive parts of the key action are made using 3D printing. In place of the strings, an electronic key velocity sensing system was developed and couples to a physical-model-based digital sound generation system. To reproduce the complex behavior of the original soundboard, a high-power acoustic transducer used for home theater applications was coupled to a dimensionally correct plywood soundboard.

To evaluate the efficacy of the hybrid system, acoustic spectrograms were compared to those from an actual replica 18th century fortepiano. The system was also evaluated by a professional fortepianist. The system compared quite favorably in terms of sound quality and had essentially identical haptic characteristics.

The prototype of the hybrid fortepiano was developed by three senior students over a three-quarter timeframe. Expected student learning outcomes included an ability to use the knowledge and tools of the discipline relating to acoustic measurement and analysis, 3D printing and prototyping, microcontroller-based sensing, analysis, and communications, an ability to design, fabricate, analyze, and optimize a complex physical system in terms of cost and performance, and an ability to communicate effectively in written, oral, and graphical forms. Assessment was performed using written reports and oral presentations as well as an evaluation of each student’s contribution to the project. Oral presentations were assessed at the end of the first and last quarter and written reports at the end of each quarter. Both written and oral presentations were assessed by all faculty members and a number of outside assessors from regional industries. The assessment of individual student contributions was performed by the project advisor and co-advisor.

Rosen, W., & Ertekin, Y., & Carr, M. E., & Davis, B. A., & Cassidy, M. (2016, June), Printing Mozart's Piano Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25954

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