The New Way to Print Music
Earlier this year, Olaf Diegel, a professor of mechatronics at New Zealand’s Massey University, created the first 3D printed guitar. The instrument functions like any electric guitar one would find at a local music store. However, Diegel’s design work highlights the capability of 3D printing.
He wanted his first printed instrument to have a heavy metal theme, so the body is shaped like a web with spiders on the inside. Diegel developed a number of prototypes which all feature a unique swirly and hollow look. They also have standard electronics including pickups, dials, and a ¼” jack to plug into an amplifier.
These instruments are not 100 percent printed though. Wood is typically preferred over plastic when developing string instruments. So Diegel uses some wood to shape the sound.
“The final prototypes have a wooden core through the middle, which is part of the customization. By using maple, mahogany or whatever wood we want on the inside, you can customize the tone of the guitar as well as the way it looks,” says Diegel in the video.
Recently another guitar fan decided to take Diegel’s concept one step further. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a 3D printed acoustic guitar created by Scott Summit.
Unsure if the body could withstand the 200 lbs. of pressure created by the strings, he set up a camera to see what would happen. "I thought it would at least be cool if the guitar exploded,” said Summit. But the instrument held together and he claims it has a great tonal range.
When they’re not printing out musical instruments, both Diegel and Summit use the technology to tackle other issues. Summit is the founder of Bespoke Innovations, which creates custom covers for prosthetics and Diegel is researching how 3D printing can help companies in New Zealand.
“This changes business models. Instead of having hundreds of spare parts on a shelf, a company could have one of these machines and print the parts as they need them. So it’s really a game changer as far as how we do business in New Zealand,” says Diegel