Powered by what are essentially clockworks and initially created by skilled watchmakers, music boxes were first made at an industrial scale in a factory back in 1815 by Jérémie Recordon and Samuel Junod.

Utilizing metal cylinders or combs and powered by a spring, the term "music box" was also applied to clockwork devices where a removable metal disk or cylinder was used in programming a sound function by means of pins rotating beneath and actuating a comb.

Since the first music box, the devices have undergone various levels of evolution until they're now often inexpensive, small windup toys included in mass-produced jewelry boxes and novelty items.

Now a startup company has built an online service, dubbed Music Drop, which allows anyone to compose their own 16-note music box and watch online as it's 3D printed for delivery.

Left Field Labs, the makers of Music Drop, say they created the service as one of their "end o' year experiments." As part of the company's 3D printing and industrial design investigations, LFL came up with a mechanically functional music player and coded a website which lets users compose their own musical tune and remotely 3D print their own Music Drop.

LFL say the first challenge came about when they decided on a method to create the audio-producing portion of the device and convert it to a printable 3D file. Initial prototyping led the company to use WebGL to allow them to programmatically alter the geometry of the files used to make the disc as a user creates a song. The software then takes that geometry and writes it out to an .STL file which is readable by a 3D printer. The online app uses HTML5 audio and javascript to create the music file.

The files used to create the completed parts are then sent to a MakerBot 3D printer. They say the design of the finished product is modeled after a classic phonograph. Notes are printed on a disc and then spun by a simple gear system, and the teardrop-shaped casing amplifies the sound.

LFL began by analyzing how a traditional music boxe is constructed, and then looked for ways they could improve that classic design. After cracking open a few older music boxes in an effort to understand their physical mechanics and studying the inner workings of the original boxes, they took inspiration from the open source industrial design models shared on Thingiverse.com.

The designers then made 3D models for the Music Drop's interior, but they quickly realized that producing a completely 3D printed music player would require a "tuned metal comb" to produce an authentic music box sound.

And do consumers like the idea? You bet your Bach they do. The site now includes this message:

Due to overwhelming demand we have disabled submission of orders so we can catch up on printing. Feel free to create your tune and save it and we will email you when we start processing orders again.