Introduction: 3D Printed Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

About: Mechanical Engineering Technologist

There are a surprising number of Saxophone mouthpieces on the market
today. Many pay homage to the classic designs of the 1950's and 1960's vintage Otto Link, New York Meyer and Early Bobby Dukoff Mouthpieces, where as others produce a more bright, edgy and powerful tone.

In essence it is necessary for the player to find the right mouthpiece to suit the sound that he or she is seeking. The role of the mouthpiece is to help the player achieve his or her sound with the greatest flexibility and least amount of adjustment to the embouchure.

Modern instruments have greater projection and power than some of their vintage counterparts. It was my goal to produce a hybrid design which was dimensionally between a metal and hard rubber mouthpiece with internal geometry of a medium to large chamber.

The ease of 3D printing models allowed for a quick turnaround to test design ideas of the various prototypes. These 3D printed mouthpieces are intended as test pieces and are not recommended to stand-up to the requirements of daily practicing and performing.

Eventually my goal is to CNC machine one of the prototype designs in brass with a gold plated finish.

Step 1:

The part file was created using SolidWorks 2015. I started by
measuring an existing Tenor Saxophone mouthpiece (a Metal Yanagisawa M7) for overall dimensions including: length, table width and length, shank bore diameter and bore depth.

I found jpeg images of a saxophone mouthpiece which included a top, front, back, bottom and side view and inserted them on corresponding planes in SolidWorks using the insert sketch picture feature. I scaled the jpeg images to fit the dimensions I measured from the actual mouthpiece. This provided a framework from which I could model the part in SolidWorks.

I made several design revisions and sketched a total of 7 prototypes. Many of these prototypes were unsuitable to 3D print using additive manufacturing, as the part files consisted of surfaces, not solid bodies. Surfaces, even when thickened in SolidWorks do not produce a part which is easily converted into a .STL file for printing.

Eventually I settled on 3 designs I wished to prototype with additive manufacturing. These files were made with solid bodies/extrusions in SolidWorks and converted into a .STL file for processing by the Stratasys Fortus 250 3D printer software.

Step 2: Printing the .STL Files With the Fortus 250 Mc 3D Printer

I experimented with printing the mouthpieces in different
orientations and found that the best surface finish and interior finish was accomplished by printing the mouthpiece oriented vertically. The prints quality was set to solid with the highest resolution. Dissolvable support material was used in order to print overhanging features without distortion.

After printing had finished I removed as much of the support material as possible before placing the mouthpiece in the dissolving tank. Dissolving support material often takes much longer than actually printing the part, so it is helpful to remove as much support material as possible to speed up the process.

I created a ligature design for the mouthpiece which was printed semi-hollow to allow for maximum flexibility of the ABS material. During my initial play test I held the reed to the mouthpiece table with electrical tape. This worked well although it was a bit awkward to set up. The ligature screw holes were created as through holes for a 6-32 nut and bolt. I am unsure if I will continue to use this ligature design or redesign a Parachute Chord ligature with adjustment plate.

Before play testing the mouthpieces I sanded the table flat with 320 and 400 grit wet/dry sand paper and adjusted the tip opening. I used a piece of marble from a kitchen counter top as my flat surface upon which the sand paper was taped down. I pulled the mouthpiece across the sand paper in even strokes until the ABS was uniform and smooth. The tip was opened slightly and measured to be approximately .115".

Instrument Contest

Participated in the
Instrument Contest