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3D printing sounds like the future of music

This is music to the ears of instrumentalists and fans of 3D printing alike.

Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University) Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University)

This is music to the ears of instrumentalists and fans of 3D printing alike. Professor Olaf Diegel, who teaches Product Development at Lund University, in Sweden, along with a band of students has taken two guitars, a drum set and a keyboard from a concept to the concert hall.

Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University) Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University)

The idea came to Diegel some years ago as a rock band-playing youth who had started experimenting with 3D printing. “Well, at that time I was just prototyping but I had seen it evolve and getting better and better over the years until the point where it was being used for the manufacture of lots of applications,” Diegel explains to Metro.

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The electric guitar was the first instrument to be completed and worked perfectly after just 11 hours of printing. “Then I tried making a bass guitar, which is more difficult as the strings cause much more tension and take more time, but that worked fine too,” he says. To complete the band, the New Zealand-born designer also produced a drum kit and a keyboard after a partnership with 3D Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of 3D printing machines.

It sounds like Diegel hit the right note from the outset but actually he worked on the musical instruments for nearly three years before reaching his crescendo. “During this time, I made over 55 guitars and basses, three drum kits, two keyboards and most of them were sold within the last two years”, he says.

After printing, the instruments’ bodywork is painted. The manmade aesthetics are an area, which can draw suspicion and questioning over the quality of their sound.
But according to the creator, they are comparable to any high-quality instrument. “So far, all professional musicians that have played them have been quite impressed and not just by how they look but also by how they play and sound. The quality of the instruments speak for themselves,” he says.

Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University) Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instrument (Photo credit: Lund University)

Diegel is now working on a second version of a 3D-printed saxophone and is considering making a one-of-a-kind wind instrument, like a flute on which it is possible to play complete chords, together with the melody. “3D printing allows us to make products that would be impossible to make using conventional technologies. If I were making conventionally-shaped guitars then there would be better, more cost-effective ways of making them. But because the shapes of my guitars are incredibly complex, it's the ideal technology to use,” he concludes.

 
 
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