Lund University professor Olaf Diegel and a band comprising students at the Swedish school's Malmö Academy of Music recently put on what they called the world's first live concert of its kind, using only 3D-printed instruments. A drum kit, a keyboard, and two electric guitars, were part of the September show.
Diegel, a design engineer who teaches courses in product development, has been working with 3D printing for almost a decade but began printing 3D instruments about three years ago. He created what he called the world's first 3D-printed saxophone in July, starting the design in “a virtual world” of 3D CAD software before sending the model to a 3D printer. A selective laser sintering (SLS) process was used for printing the sax as well as the other instruments in Diegel's ensemble.
In 2011, Diegel started his own custom guitar company, ODD Guitars, which produces 3D-printed guitars. The SLS process is explained on the ODD Guitars website: SLS “builds the components by spreading a thin layer of nylon powder that is fused in the correct locations for that particular slice of the component. The layer is then dropped down a fraction of a millimeter, and another layer of powder is spread on top of the first. The process is repeated until the component is built. The typical layer thickness is 0.1 mm.”
Hardware used on the guitars (pickups, bridges, necks, tuning heads, etc.) is off the shelf. All of Diegel's guitars have a wooden-core insert, which joins the neck to the bridge. According to a 2013 Premier Guitar article, “acoustically the guitars are akin to a standard small-bodied electric guitar.”
In a Gizmag interview, Diegel indicated that the process of printing a guitar body and then painting it can take about 22 hours. Additional time is required to assemble the components and set the action. Prices for a custom 3D-printed guitar can range from $3,000 to $4,000.
Diegel worked on a project that involved 3D-printed inserts for diabetics and sees the potential for additional medical applications of 3D-printing technology.
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