Pure awesomeness - 3D printed musical instruments

Dear visitor, welcome to my ever work-in-progress enthusiasm on the 3d printed things and parametric/generative 3D design. Today, we’re going to discuss some really special appliances of 3D printing; this additive manufacturing technique might change the world of the fabrication of musical instruments as well.

Image courtesy of ODD Guitars

As a real 3D printing enthusiast and a former electric guitar player, I’ve decided to 3D print a guitar which is designed by me. It would be really nice to realize an old dream of mine, to have a beautiful PRS electric guitar with parametric patterns on it. But – although I’m into all kind of guitars – I have to do some research for first before it gets started.

Photo by Rick English

Just because many others have been 3D printing musical instruments before my project, it is highly recommended to take a look at what they have done and what I could learn from them. It’s okay, some might say that these hand crafted instruments are due to be put on museum shelves very soon, along side the vinyl record player, for the masses at least. I also think that these 3d printed plastic examples are just bric-a-brack and are more suited to maker floh market stands than the Berlin Symphony. Sure we’ll go through this phase of novelty technology for the sake of it, where by we recreate existing instruments like whistles and flutes, but then when the next generation comes along who have never seen the originals..that’s when the creativity starts.. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely recognize the traditions of music and making of musical instruments, but this kind of evolution cannot be stopped.

Image courtesy of ODD guitars

I really believe that 3d printing is going to revolutionize a lot of production methods, especially increasing the quality of smaller, form-pressed objects, but in terms of more “traditional instruments, I think you’d be hard pressed to find instrument makers moving away from traditional woods.

Image courtesy of ODD Guitars

Olaf Diegel has been printing electric guitar bodies looking like they have morphogenesis applied to them. It is one of the first commercially available musical instruments making use of 3d printers. While the instrument’s aesthetics are very interesting, the 3d printed plastic parts do not have any influence on the sound of the instrument, because it is merely an enclosure for a wooden core which supports all the vibrating and resonating parts. It is made by SLS using a special type of Nylon. I think that they all look pretty awesome, if you’ve followed me in the last couple of months you know I’m into this kind of parametric/generative 3D design with Grasshopper, so I think I’m going to follow Diegel’s works because I want to create something like these beauties as well.

Image courtesy of ODD Guitars

The german selective laser sintering 3D printers company EOS has printed a violin body and neck 3D modeled after a 3D scanned Stradivarius. Printed by professionalhigh-resolution EOSint SLS machines and assembled by a traditional violin builder master using a traditional handcrafted parts like wooden bridge, comb, pegs and normal strings means the 3D printed plastic part only functions as a part of the resonator system. A demo video describes the sound as very good in the lower registers, though a bit weaker in the high registers. But it’s still awesome that you can 3D print a Stradivari, isn’t it?

Image courtesy of Nate Lanxon

Image courtesy of Nate Lanxon

Image courtesy of Nate Lanxon

And last but not least, take a look at this beautiful masterpiece, actually it’s the wolrd’s first 3D printed acoustic guitar designed by Scott Summit, 3D printed by 3D Systems. Summit describes this version as a rough draft. He wants to start experimenting with more radical designs to see how they change the sound. And it worked, and it sounds pretty good. “It’s rich and full and has a great tonal range,” says Summit, who’s been known to play at friends’ weddings and at dive bars.

Image courtesy of Rick English

Image courtesy of Rick English

The different parts of the intrument has been 3D printed with different type of materials. Summit says: “It’s sort of this salad bar of 3D printing”. The resonator body has been 3D printed using about $3,000 worth of plastic, so we cannot say it is a cheap way of manufacturing custom built guitars. The metal plate on the neck has been 3D printed out of stainless steel, and the headstock has been 3D printed with sterling silver – these unique details make this instrument a beauty queen.

Image courtesy of Rick English

Image courtesy of Rock English

Next week, I’m going to continue my researches about3D printed musical instruments, to collect some more information for my own 3D printed bio-plastic guitar design project. Stay tuned;) peace