Making Future Industries


3D Modelling and Printing of Custom-Designed Flutes

The Project

3D Flutes Researchers 300 by 2003D Modelling and Printing of Custom-Designed Flutes explores the potential for 3D printing to change the music industry by creating flutes that can be played in a number of microtonal scales.

Researcher Terumi Narushima says the project combines the field of microtonal music, which is a relatively new area of study, with the emerging technology of 3D printing to create instruments that are not feasible within standard manufacturing.

The project focuses on designing 3D printed flutes which are tested in the University of Wollongong’s Anechoic Chamber. The researchers believe the project can play a big role in the future of the music industry with the potential to recreate rare and customised instruments and help musicians achieve unique sounds.

“The project takes a different attitude to music-making,” Dr Narushima said. “It’s about not taking the status quo for granted. What kind of new instruments and new music can we create?”

This project looks set to challenge the traditional methods of manufacturing musical instruments with consumers having the power to specify the tuning of their instrument to suit their needs and then print them on demand. 

Project Outcomes and Publications

After being awarded seed funding in Global Challenges' inaugural round, this team 3D modelled and printed custom-designed flutes that could play a number of microtonal tunings. The flutes featured in several performances late in 2015. In 2014, the team also received project funding to continue development and were presented with the Vice-Chancellor's Award for Interdisciplinary Research Excellence.  

Impact Publications Media


Hear how team members from multiple disciplines have collaborated on the 3D printed flute project.  Video courtesy of Paul Jones, UOW.

The Researchers

3D Printed Flutes_23D Modelling and Printing of Custom-Designed Flutes brings together researchers from backgrounds in music, engineering and the arts. 

Dr Terumi Narushima is a researcher, composer, performer and lecturer in UOW’s Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts specialising in microtonal tuning systems in music. Dr Narushima’s investigates various tools for developing and analysing new tuning resources for music composition and performance.

Associate Professor Christian Ritz is a researcher in UOW’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences. He specialises in digital signal processing for speech, audio and acoustics and manages UOW’s anechoic (non-echo) chamber. In addition, A/Prof Ritz has undertaken research investigating the design and construction of miniature custom microphone arrays using 3D printing technology.

Dr Stephen Beirne is a Research Fellow and Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Additive Fabrication Manager of the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute(IPRI)/Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) at UOW. Dr Beirne utilizes a range of custom additive fabrication tools that allow researchers to access a highly flexible means of device design and production. His research expertise includes additive fabrication techniques, materials and rapid prototyping.

Kraig Grady is a MCA-R candidate in UOW’s Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts. He is an expert in microtonal music and has extensive experience as an instrument builder, composer and performer. He brings knowledge of instrument-making and microtonal tuning theory to the project.

Mathew Dabin is a PhD candidate in digital signal processing and acoustics. He has developed a number of devices using 3D printing, including microphone sensor arrays and a traditional recorder. His experience in advanced 3D modelling, CFD simulation and engineering application development, as well as his background in music, make him uniquely suited to work as a research assistant on this project.

Last reviewed: 3 February, 2017