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The problem with printing pitch: challenges in designing 3D printed claves

Emmeline Evans (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)
Christopher McComb (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Rapid Prototyping Journal

ISSN: 1355-2546

Article publication date: 13 July 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023




Although music education has been proven to benefit students, music programs are often cut when public school funding is reduced. The cost of instruments is a significant financial burden on music programs, which restricts student access to high-quality instruments that would benefit their learning. Therefore, this paper aims to develop additively manufactured, polylactic acid (PLA) claves that could reproduce the sound of wooden claves and be printed by students in schools at a reduced cost to promote equal access to music education regardless of a school’s financial status.


This study developed a dual approach for analyzing clave vibration using mathematical analysis in MATLAB and SolidWorks finite element frequency simulation to predict the natural frequencies of 15 claves with varying geometries. To evaluate the performance of both models, the authors obtained natural frequencies experimentally by recording the claves and analyzing the resulting frequency spectra. The authors considered the possible effects of damping and determined the effective damping required in both models through comparison with experimental results.


Results indicate that PLA claves cannot easily be made to replicate the high pitch of rosewood claves while maintaining typical clave dimensions. However, PLA claves could still be suitable in instances where matching pitch is not a primary concern or improved durability is desired. The SolidWorks simulation approach could accurately predict clave pitch for all varieties of clave, whereas the mathematical approach was only accurate in predicting pitch for the filled claves.


In this work, the authors attempted to create an analytical process for simple percussion instrument design, which is typically done with trial-and-error methods. Instead, the authors developed a two-pronged approach in which experimental results were compared to results obtained both mathematically and from a finite element simulation. Additionally, we limited the materials and equipment used to those that would be available in a school setting so that the clave prototypes could be reproduced by public school students, the population this research is intended to serve.



Evans, E. and McComb, C. (2023), "The problem with printing pitch: challenges in designing 3D printed claves", Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 29 No. 1, pp. 145-156.



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