Laser Cut Vinyl Record — Fab Week 3

After watching Koka’s Soundtrack Box , the idea of laser cut something that can make sounds or even music stuck in my head. I want to make something that sounds. First I was thinking of music instruments, then one day I was looking at the vinyl player on my table, I thought “is it is possible to actually make a record?”

So I did some research online. I found out the music vinyl produce doesn’t depend on the depth of the cuts but the sin-wave of the spirals. So theoretically, laser cutter is capable of producing music (or music-like sound). There were also couple people on Instructable had done similar experiments and succeeded. (Amanda Ghassaei’s instructable  

So I started to experiment.

The first step is to modify the sound file for to make it ideal for playing in a vinyl player. I used AUDACITY to do this and used the song Wish You Were Here. 

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.38.21 AM 1.png

I amplified signal and modified RIAA Equalization Curve.

The second step  is to create a text file of sound data using Python. I used Amanda’s code on Github.

But when I tried to run the codes with my file, It didn’t work.

python error.jpeg

It turned out the codes were written in 2012 with Python 2, while Python 3 I am using have different syntax. I spent almost an entire day debugging the codes and got it to work.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.49.49 AM.png

I got a text file with sound data like this.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.51.08 AM.png

The third step  is to create cutting files using Processing.  I modified the codes so that everything matches the laser cutter we have in ITP and the sounds file I am using.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.54.23 AM.png After that, I was able to generate vector files for laser cutting.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 1.56.19 AM.png

Now we came to the actual cutting work. I used the 75w laser cutter and 1/16 acrylic.  I started off by doing testings with small slices of the spirals.




After trying out 15 different combination of settings, I decided on using Speed 90 Power 20. 

Before making the real cutting of the full record, I tested on a card board just to see if the outer circle would exceed the range of laser cutter. It turns out 11.5 inches worked just fine.


Finally I started to make the real cuts. I split the spirals into three chunks of grooves and ran it separately,  as Illustrator doesn’t like to import too much data at once. It took about 30 minutes to do each run (Took 1.5 hours to finish the job).

Then something tragic happened….I ran out of the time I reserved for laser cutter between my second run and the third run. So I let some else who actually reserved the time slot after me cut in and did her work. When I resumed to do my third round of cut, I got my classmates’ image that was left unfinished in the laser cutter  accidentally cut on my record.


giphy-downsized.gif   #ME

Nevertheless, I still got to try the partially-ruined record on my vinyl player.





laser cut vinyl.gif

I am going to do another run tomorrow morning. (To be continued).

*Codes used in this project credited to Amanda Ghassaei. 

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