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I should have had more coffee this morning when I wrote, as I have seen many pictures of the the D3D shanks and flanges. Like the WNG shanks, a carbon fiber tube is fixed in the end component with epoxy. The flange and that portion are both 3D printed with the Igus tribopolymer. Jgus has the printer and vast expertise, and makes these items for Phoenix. I don't know who they source the CF tubes from, or how exactly they are woven.


https://www.phoenixpianos.co.uk/3d-printed-actions/


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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
We want a shank to track in as straight a line as is possible on its way to the string. There are tonal deficits which we can hear with loose pinning in traditional wooden shanks that I do not hear from the WNG shanks that I use. Phoenix claims a superbly controlled hammer flight with their design.

Flex plays a role as Ed Foote states. I think also that a lack of torsional stiffness may have a tonal deficit, in that the hammer won't necessarily "want" to track in a straight line without sufficient restraint. Moreover, if the hammer does not strike the the string(s) evenly, then the exit of the hammer will be more chaotic in directional movement.

At that time, they were working on prototypes for whippens with the intent to come to market with them. But that was right before the Covid 19 bomb dropped on the world, so I don't know of their progress since then.

That's one of the first things I noticed about WN&G shanks/flanges was about 6 months after installation I was servicing the action and noticed the string marks were "different" from what is always the case with wooden shanks. I call the string marks on the hammers with wooden shanks "shadowed". They are gradual from the edges to the bottom and much wider than the string diameter. However, string marks on hammers with WN&G shanks are like they are laser cut. Clearly, they are not doing the waving and wobbling that we have seen in high speed photos of wooden shanks striking strings. I think this is due to the rigidity of the shank/flange joint which is not nearly as rigid with wooden components. And, of course, the CF shank is much more stable, as well.


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Doesn’t that make una corda shading more difficult (or more attention must be paid to voicing that area)?


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I have tapered cross ply carbon fiber shanks sometimes made for me by a fishing pole maker. They are far more torsional resistant than the longitudinal fibers like W,N&G uses.

They also allow very little burn in when spacing so you must mount the hammers very accurately. Much more accurately than is the usual standard with wood shanks.

I second Keiths observation about hammer grooves and W,N&G shanks. W,N&G shanks are not as torsionaly rigid as cross-ply ones, but they seem to have enough to work very well.


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Originally Posted by terminaldegree
Doesn’t that make una corda shading more difficult (or more attention must be paid to voicing that area)?

Not actually. Instead of having a wider area to go beyond to achieve a good shift pedal tone, it is much closer with the narrower grooves.
In other words, using the shift to make the hammer graze the side of the groove gives bad tone. You need to shift beyond that. That "good tone zone" is reached more quickly with the wear typical of hammers mounted on W,N & G s/f.


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To terminaldegree's questions and Kpembrook's comments:

https://www.rhinegold.co.uk/interna...s-introduces-3d-printed-hammer-assembly/

The result is a much greater sense of control and immediacy combined with pinpoint accurate hammer flight. Pianist James Bacon, who has helped to build the prototype, says the D3D action makes a big difference for performers: ‘Artists who have tried it say “it’s like stepping into a Ferrari after driving an Austin Seven”.’

"Once acclimatised, pianists find that they can produce more power with less effort. The new assembly also fosters an unprecedented sense of connection with the instrument.

‘At first the D3D action feels strange because the keys are responsive,’ explains Lyakhovsky, ‘but once you’ve adjusted to it, the sound and consistency of tone are fantastic.’


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It is fascinating to see new materials technologies applied to old-world equipment.
Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
What is different about the D3D hammer shanks and flanges compared to the Wessell, Nickel, and Gross shanks & flanges is that the WNG shank is made of a pultrusion of carbon fiber. This means that all the strength and stiffness of the shank lies in one direction, as in the shank will more strongly resist bending. However, these shanks are very weak in torsion, as in if you twist a hammer on a shank, it does not take much for the carbon fiber tube to break.
Have the WNG shanks broken frequently in the field?

Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
In January of 2020, I exchanged several friendly emails with James Bacon, who worked with Richard Dain in designing the new shanks. He told me that the tubes are comprised of carbon fiber braid and unidirectional fabrics in a helical weave. They have been designed to be much stronger under torsional and side loading - in effect the stiffness is unidirectional
I suppose the players will determine if they sense benefits from this weaving and materials (e.g. increased torsional resistance, lighter weight, different shock absorption). For certain, improved materials and braiding have made massive improvements in the performance of other recreational equipment, including: sailing, skiing, tennis, and cycling.

Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
The entire shank is made of a tribopolymer made by Igus (who worked with Dain in creating the design). The material has lubricants imbedded in the the plastic, so there is no need for a cloth bushing as is traditional, or a high tech plastic bushing such as WNG uses.
Wouldn't a replaceable bushing made of plastics optimised for the task perform better & last longer than the built-in bearing of a large 3D multi-use printed part? On the downside, I suppose bespoke bearings would cost more to produce and install, and boost parts count significantly.

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"The components from igus in Phoneix’s D3D Hammer System are two-millimeter roller bearings that are used as center points for the bushless system. The pins offer smooth operation and with approximately a 30 percent increased diameter, are stronger, smoother and more dimensionally precise than traditional wire center pins. Extensive design and 3D printing work with igus allowed Phoenix to create the new hammer system. igus, based in Cologne, Germany, runs its UK operations from Northampton and its North American operations from Providence, R.I."

“These ultra-high-grade pins offer buttery-smooth operation, and with approximately a 30 percent increased diameter, are stronger, smoother and more dimensionally precise than traditional wire center pins,’’ said Phoenix founder Richard Dain. “igus was of the utmost help to us in their selection and provision of material for our hammer flange assemblies.”

https://www.bearingtips.com/igus-helps-piano-builder-strike-a-new-tune/

Jgus is a huge company, with literally hundreds of plastic formulations and designs for slide rails for manufacturing and a multitude of other things, whereby repetitions in the millions are standard. So a hinged assembly like a hammer and shank is small stuff to them. Visit Igus.com to see what I am talking about.

I have never had a shank break on me, but some others have. If the shank is too tight in the drilled hole for the hammer, then if one is want to rotate the shank a tad to square it to the string, that is a circumstance that might lead to breakage.

I don't think players are going to think about or feel torsion. Whether or not it feels lighter really depends on the strike weight of the hammers and shanks together as a system. I do think that some players can feel how carbon fiber handles shock absorption. CF is brittle and does not do shock absorption well, but the tribopolymer does handle shock and impact well. It dampens well because it absorbs the vibrations. They claim very low coefficients of friction and extremely low slip-stick effect, which are very important in slow movements and small loads. The particular lubricant powder that is infused into the tribopolymer plastic is chosen for these reasons.

That should answer your question. These plastics and dry lubricants are optimized for the task,

I don't have a cost analysis comparing these 3D printed parts to other means when getting to the 'make 'em like popcorn level of production. That said, I think they would be more expensive


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Thank you for the detailed response William Truitt; this is fascinating.

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Originally Posted by WilliamTruitt
"The components from igus in Phoneix’s D3D Hammer System are two-millimeter roller bearings that are used as center points for the bushless system. The pins offer smooth operation and with approximately a 30 percent increased diameter, are stronger, smoother and more dimensionally precise than traditional wire center pins. Extensive design and 3D printing work with igus allowed Phoenix to create the new hammer system. igus, based in Cologne, Germany, runs its UK operations from Northampton and its North American operations from Providence, R.I."

“These ultra-high-grade pins offer buttery-smooth operation, and with approximately a 30 percent increased diameter, are stronger, smoother and more dimensionally precise than traditional wire center pins,’’ said Phoenix founder Richard Dain. “igus was of the utmost help to us in their selection and provision of material for our hammer flange assemblies.”

https://www.bearingtips.com/igus-helps-piano-builder-strike-a-new-tune/

Jgus is a huge company, with literally hundreds of plastic formulations and designs for slide rails for manufacturing and a multitude of other things, whereby repetitions in the millions are standard. So a hinged assembly like a hammer and shank is small stuff to them. Visit Igus.com to see what I am talking about.

I have never had a shank break on me, but some others have. If the shank is too tight in the drilled hole for the hammer, then if one is want to rotate the shank a tad to square it to the string, that is a circumstance that might lead to breakage.

I don't think players are going to think about or feel torsion. Whether or not it feels lighter really depends on the strike weight of the hammers and shanks together as a system. I do think that some players can feel how carbon fiber handles shock absorption. CF is brittle and does not do shock absorption well, but the tribopolymer does handle shock and impact well. It dampens well because it absorbs the vibrations. They claim very low coefficients of friction and extremely low slip-stick effect, which are very important in slow movements and small loads. The particular lubricant powder that is infused into the tribopolymer plastic is chosen for these reasons.

That should answer your question. These plastics and dry lubricants are optimized for the task,

I don't have a cost analysis comparing these 3D printed parts to other means when getting to the 'make 'em like popcorn level of production. That said, I think they would be more expensive

Interesting info.
Just for clarification purposes...
WNG does not use traditional wire center pins. They are in fact hardened needle (roller) bearings with tolerances precise to 1/10,000"

FWIW, the shank/hammer joint is not under any significant load or strain when the hammer strikes the string because the hammer/shank is flying free (tethered flight).
There might be some value in greater torsional stiffness in that during acceleration, the mass center of the hammer will not reliably be directly in line with the center of the shank.

Also, I think you *can* hear a difference. This is to be expected because many of the qualities of the synthetic shank/flange identified in this thread affect how precisely the hammer hits the strings.
I think the difference is subtle and would never suggest switching shanks and keeping the hammers as worthwhile, but in numerous installations, I believe there is a difference.
Since I have become quite good at throwing away new (or new-ish) parts for superior after-market parts, what I have been hearing is not a comparison between old, worn components and new ones.
More to the point, customers have been amazed and gratified at the tonal improvements that have been achieved by upgrading brand new factory-quality (ie inferior) components.


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For those not familiar with Igus, they have very extensive knowledge of metal/plastic bearings, and have been selling plastic composite parts for such bearings for quite a long time.

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Originally Posted by kpembrook
I think you can hear a difference.

Yes, you can hear and feel the difference between Phoenix pianos at Hurstwood farm with and without the composite action. In a word, precision.


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A comment or two, if I may.

We know Richard Dane and his crew in England. Good people, smart people, honorable people. I’m sure they have done good work. I would suggest however, that they had different goals in mind then we at WNG had during the design process.

When we designed the WNG system, the goal was to design parts that would appeal to the action rebuilders who, in addition to selecting quality parts, use their intelligence to correct faults in the original action geometry design. These faults often render, an otherwise good piano, virtually unplayable. In these cases, just replacing parts (no matter the quality) seldom solve the problem. Often, correcting an underlying action geometry fault gets more playability for the pianist then all the rest put together. While these corrections can be done with traditional wooden parts, it is not easy and, because of the difficulty, often expensive.

The shank butt used by the Dane group illustrates an important point. This part features a single slot molded into the shank butt for a traditional knuckle. Nothing particularly innovative from either them or us as this approach has been around for at least 150 years. We did the same thing on our first iteration.

There are two drawbacks to this approach. First, because of the design, there is only one position for the knuckle. The first-generation shank butt from WNG was similar in design. To achieve three different knuckle positions WNG used the rather inelegant solution of molding three different shank butts each with the slot in a different location. In our design the shank butt flares after the knuckle to provide a place to glue the carbon tube into place.

The second drawback is, in testing, we noticed by way of high-speed photography, that there was flexing in the shank butt at the knuckle slot. The reason is obvious. The slot in the shank butt basically cut the shank butt in half. In so doing, at the very point that force is applied to the shank from the jack, the strength of the shank butt is cut in half.

From this, we proceeded to explore how to get the carbon tube under the knuckle and as far towards the center pin as possible. The solution entailed designing another way to mount the knuckle to the shank butt that required no slot and featured an entirely new way of positioning the knuckle. This led to a radical improvement in the number of positions in which a knuckle could be mounted. Originally, we could supply shanks with knuckles mounted at three different distances from the center pin. With the new design we were able to mount knuckles from 15mm to 19mm from the center pin in .5mm increments.

A single knuckle location suits a piano manufacturer well because the action can be designed around a standardized single knuckle location. The Phoenix group is essentially a small volume piano manufacturer.

This approach does not suit a rebuilder well. Actions have varied widely over the years and no single knuckle location will solve all problems.

Another observation about the shank butt. Our experience is that strength and rigidity in composites is directly related to the length of the fiber. Long fiber (11mm or so) provides much better strength and rigidity than short fiber (1mm or so). 3D printing seems to have a limit of about 1mm in the fiber length which we would not be willing to do.

Also, the Dane group apparently has a different design for the tube. As described, this design will not be any stronger in the primary axis where force is applied to propel the hammer towards the string. Its primary advantage (maybe only advantage) would be laterally which would be applied by twisting the hammer and thus the shank. It is asserted that this lateral strength will achieve a better tone because the hammer would not be moving sideways during its contact with the strings.

University technicians have told us that our shanks yield a much cleaner set of string lines on the hammer resulting in not only better tone but also more longevity for the hammer themselves. More easily filed they say.

When we first introduced our composite hammer shanks, we indeed had some problem with breakage however this was entirely from technicians unfamiliar with the nuances of WNG hammer shanks. At this time, we have virtually no such problem because the techs have learned how to not break our shanks during installation. In addition, I am not aware of any failures resulting from playing after the shanks have been installed and the tech has gone home. WNG shanks are really quite robust.

Since I have not worked with the Dane group’s shanks, I am not sure what effect (if any) it has on “burning” the shanks however, “burning” the shanks is a necessary part of hammer hanging.

In short, while there is a theoretical advantage to the lateral strength, it seems, in practice, it doesn’t make much real difference.

Apparently, the Dane group opted to place the bird’s eye in the shank rather than the flange. In times past, there were wooden parts made this way and WNG played around with this as well. The older wooden part makers generally abandoned this approach as less stable (for the hammer path to the string) then with the bird’s eye on the flange. In our experiments the better materials we are using make this approach viable but not particularly desirable. In testing we saw no advantage and a mild disadvantage in stability.
Again, the difference is not of any great import in the larger scheme of creating a better playing piano.

As far as center pins go, we tested 2mm stainless steel needle bearings as center pins as well. We pioneered stainless steel needle bearings in the normal center pin size range early in our development phase. When we tested the larger center pins, we saw no great improvement. Again, it worked however, if there was a benefit it wasn’t worth scrapping the entire system we had already created.

Again, this is a difference without a benefit that solves no known problem.

As far as shank strength goes, we discovered somewhat to our surprise, while most pianists like our strongest shanks, some prefer the springier feel of less strong shanks. To this end we now have three different shank strengths available. If the technician is interested in doing so, they may assess what the pianist prefers and match it. From the pianists point of view, stronger is not always better.

I would assume that the composite shank used by the Dane group would have the same advantage over wooden shanks that WNG shanks have enjoyed. The variability in strength of wooden shanks greatly exceeds that of the WNG shanks and I would assume that would hold true of the Dane group’s shanks as well. At this point, there is a wealth of testing data available to demonstrate the truth of that proposition as well as the tools (designed and provided by WNG) to test the strength of any hammer shank. (Our hammer shank deflection gauge would be worth studying for those unfamiliar with it.)

It would be interesting to see the shanks from the Dane group tested as well, though again, I would be surprised if they failed.

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I believe the name is spelled Dain. Thanks for the information. I have had wonderful results using some of the W,N&G parts for many years now.\


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Thanks Mason Hamlin/WNG for the details and explanation.

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Thanks Bruce!

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