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3D printed instruments: Pushing the boundaries of technology


At Sculpteo, we know that the 3D printing technology can be used for various applications. Indeed, the world of 3D printing is evolving faster and faster, it is now possible to create complete 3D printed structures. Some of our customers are 3D printing medical devices or fashion items for instance. Instruments manufacturer are beginning to make the most of this technology to improve their products. This manufacturing technique is now useful in many sectors: 3D printed art is beginning to grow, as it is an opportunity to add new perspectives to projects. More globally, the art industry is impacted by this technology, and music is not an exception.

We will see in this blogpost what are the different possibilities, and how some researchers and music passionates made successful experimentations to ally a cutting-edge technology to the sensitivity of the musical world.

Overview: what is it possible to 3D print in the music industry?

A lot of experimentations are made on different levels inside of the music industry in order to use additive manufacturing. Here are the most promising ones:

  • 3D printed records

Here is an initiative that could please some records enthusiasts. For the moment the quality of the sound is not good enough. However, tests are quite promising and at least, we now know that it is possible to 3D print music!

  • 3D printed speakers

Aleph 1 is the proof that 3D printing can also impact the sound system business. It is now possible to get speakers with amazing designs thanks to 3D printing.

  • 3D printed headphones

For example, it is possible to get headphones adapted to any morphology or earbuds custom-made, thanks to the additive manufacturing technologies. Check out our customer story with AudioQuest’s for more details about 3D printed headphones.

  • 3D printed musical instruments

Obviously, to make music you need musical instruments, and we will see that it is possible to make amazing 3D printed instruments. It is actually possible to print various instruments, from wind instruments to string instruments or even percussions.

Why can it be a good choice to 3D print musical instruments?

3D printing as an alternative to traditional manufacturing

3D printing can be used to create replications of existing instruments or instrument parts, at a lower cost. For example, with this technique you could recreate the missing part of an instrument at a lower price. But it can also be used to produce and in this case, this technology appears to be a manufacturing technique like another. Using additive manufacturing allows to work with other materials, with a cheaper process.

A great method to work on designs

Additive manufacturing is an amazing technology, that allows to work on crazy instrument designs. For some musicians, the look of their instrument is a priority, because it has to match with the imagery of their music. As 3D printing gives a lot of freedom on this aspect, it appears to be an interesting solution. Astonishing guitar designs like the one in the video below, are easier to produce with this manufacturing technique.

It is an effective way to transform quite faster customer requirements into real printed products We will see later in this blogpost that 3D printed instruments can have really complex shapes. Some designers are making the most of this technique to create instruments with an atypical and futuristic look, impossible to create with traditional manufacturing methods.  

One of the biggest advantages of this technology is that it will improve your product development process. It is possible to work and rework on a 3D design before 3D printing it.

Additive manufacturing is allowing mass customization

Additive manufacturing also allows mass customization. Using it to create instruments is a good way to create musical instruments adapted to the needs of the musician. For example, thanks to 3D printing, it’s possible to make lighter instruments. Some instruments such as saxophones or even some Les Paul guitars are quite heavy, and it can become a real problem over time. By choosing the right 3D printing material, you could make instruments that will improve the comfort of the musician while playing.

What 3D printing material to create an instrument?

A wide range of 3D printing materials is available on the market, it totally depends on your needs and your project. Olaf Diegel, that you will meet numerous times in this blogpost, uses nylon to 3D print his instruments. He is working with the Selective Laser Sintering technology. If you want more information about SLS and all the 3D printing materials available with this technology, check out our SLS page.

But it is possible to 3D print instruments with other techniques and materials. For example PLA plastic and FDM 3D printing have been used to create some instruments from the MONAD Studio that you will see in this article.

Other example: the violin manufacturing 3Dvarius is 3D printing with resin material, using stereolithography. Each project has special requirements and needs a different 3D printing material.

3D printed instruments: the most impressive creations

3D printed guitars and bass guitars

  • Olaf Diegel and his amazing 3D printed guitars

Olaf Diegel is a professor in product development, he is also passionate about new technologies and guitar making. Its 3D printed guitars are amazing by the way they look, but also by the way they sound. They are high-quality guitars, totally customisable. Like a traditional guitar, you can play using chords or just with finger picking, it’s actually possible to reach an impressive sound. In this video, Olaf Diegel shows how he is crafting instruments:

If you are interested in these 3D printed electric guitars, take a look at the ODD guitars website!

You can also see in this video that it is possible to play a wide range of musical genres with these guitars, like with a traditional instrument. Indeed, it is possible to get the right sound to play funk, progressive rock, heavy rock or blues.

  • The 3D printed Hybrid Slide Guitar

This 3D printed guitar is a creation of the MONAD Studio, designed by Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg with the musician and luthier Scott F. Hall. It is part of an installation called “MULTI”, that includes different 3D printed instruments, playing on complex and disturbing aspects, but also on sound explorations. This guitar totally reinvents the traditional design of a guitar. It has a fretless neck, as this printed instrument is made to play with a slide technique.

If you’re interested in the sound of this atypical instrument, you can listen to it here:

  • Olaf Diegel is creating guitars, but also 3D printed bass guitars

The sound and morphology of the instrument are obviously different, but Olaf Diegel offers the same possibilities. It is possible to adapt the design of the 3D printed instrument according to the tastes of the musician. Here is an example with the Atom 3D printed bass guitar.

  • A student 3D printed the body of a bass guitar

A student decided to create a custom bass guitar body for a school project and he made a complete video about it. He created and assembled it by himself. This 3D printed instrument is fully functional.

You can watch this video to understand the creation process and see a little demonstration.

3D printed pianos and melodicas

  • 3D printing a piano: the example of the Lucid – EXO piano

This impressive instrument comes from the same installation as the 3D printed Hybrid Slide Guitar that we saw previously. This futuristic piano is designed by Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg from the MONAD Studio. Because of its size, 3D printing a piano is quite a challenge.

To listen to the sound of this 3D printed piano: 

  • A Steinway piano with 3D printed parts

This example is showing that even a big piano manufacturer such as Steinway is taking seriously the growing use of 3D printing technology. These 3D printed parts don’t have any impact on the sound of the instrument, it is only decoration. Indeed, the 3D printed porcelain parts are here to innovate on the final aspect of the piano. It shows that new technologies and tradition can be used together, to work on the design of an instrument.

  • The first 3D printed melodica

Daren Banarsë is a pianist, but sometimes, he likes to play melodica. He started to do some experimentations to create a 3D printed melodica because he wanted his instrument to look less juvenile and sound more professional.

You can find all the details about his experimentations and the creation of this melodica, here. Daren Banarsë shares all the steps of his experiments on this website, the 3D modeling process, his desktop 3D printer choice, the printing process, the assembly, and the finishing!


3D printed saxophones

  • Olaf Diegel and his printed saxophone

This music passionate, that we already know for his 3D printed guitars, also tried to 3D print a saxophone. Once again, his new 3D printed instrument is a success. Olaf Diegel is really gifted when it comes to instruments crafting. This 3D printed saxophone is the result of a  meticulous and impressive work. Indeed, this saxophone has 41 components 3D printed in nylon.

Even if it is impossible to sound like a real saxophone made with brass, the sound that Olaf Diegel obtained with this 3D creation is more than correct. You can listen to his demonstration right here:

3D printed violins

  • Hovalin: the traditional and 3D printed acoustic violin

Hovalin is a little brand created by The Hovas, a couple offering more than 3D printed instruments: they are actually offering a whole 3D printing experiment. Indeed, there are three different ways to get your printed violin with Hovalin. You can 3D print it by yourself. 3D models are free and available on their website, anyone can download these 3D files and then print them thanks to an online 3D printing service. They are also offering to send the whole kit to their customers, or directly, the finished product.

Their creations stay very close to the traditional look of an acoustic violin, and their sound is really close to the sound of a wood violin.

  • The only 3D printed violin that could compete with a real Stradivarius

3D varius is a french violin manufacturer. These electronic violins are based on the same models as the famous Stradivarius violins. They are customisable, and can totally be adapted to the morphology of the musician. But the design can also be modified for aesthetic reasons, in order to match the customer’s tastes.  

Behind this modern look, there is a surprising violin sound. You should absolutely listen to this amazing performance of the founder of 3Dvarius:

  • The futuristic violin of the MONAD Studio

You can now recognize the style of the instruments printed by the MONAD Studio. This 3D printed violin and his astonishing look is also part of the installation “MULTI”.

If you are curious about hearing the sound of this atypical instrument, here is a video for you:

3D printed drums

  • ZMorph 2.0 S: the amazing 3D printed electronic drums

3D printed percussions are maybe the most complex instruments to 3D print. A student called Michal Szydlowski created low cost electronic drums thanks to the 3D printing technology. These 3D printed drums are called ZMorph 2.0 S. Michal worked with Autodesk to work on the 3D modeling of his drums. Then he printed the parts of his instrument with different infill, in order to get the right sound for each part.

Watch how Michal created his drums in the video below:

3D printed flute

  • The 3D printed acoustic flute by Amit Zoran

This flute has been created by Amit Zoran for a research project. Amit Zoran made this flute in order to show the opportunities offered by additive manufacturing when it comes to acoustic instruments. This researcher built the 3D model of a flute that will be printed in only one part, without any assembly. He had to reinvent the whole instrument in order to get to this result.

  • The 3D printed flute, a real revolution for the music industry?

Researchers are interested in 3D printed flutes. The University of Wollongong Australia is working on the possibilities offered by 3D printing in the musical sector. They are studying how changing technologies can impact culture and society. During these researches, they created custom 3D printed flutes able to play microtonal tunings, normally unavailable on traditional instruments.

If you are interested in this project, you can check this video for more information:

3D printed ukulele

  • Hovalele offers the opportunity to print a ukulele

It is the same process as for Hovalin. The Hovas created Hovalele, a simple platform allowing you to get a great 3D printed ukulele. As for their 3D printed violin, they are offering their customer three different ways to get a 3D printable ukulele.

With all of the 3D printed instruments that we saw in this blogpost, you could totally make a band with 3D printed instruments only! Find out a good example in the video below:

Is the 3D printing technology mature enough to 3D print instruments?

We can totally say that 3D printing is now mature enough to create real musical instruments, and not only fake ones for wall decoration. There are now functional instruments, with great sounds and qualities. Once again, 3D printing appears to be the best solution to work on designs. It shows the degree of accuracy and performance of this manufacturing technology.

We can see that some instruments seem to be more perfectible than other ones. 3D printed violins and guitars seem to be the most successful experiments for the moment. Even if it can be complicated to reach the warm sound of a wood instrument, the first result obtained for these electronic instruments are good. For the moment, it is still very complicated to create acoustic guitars with these manufacturing techniques.

Needless to say, most of these projects are made to push the boundaries of 3D printing technologies. Indeed, a lot of these projects are made by designers, students or researchers. Musical instruments getting out of 3D printers is quite a big change for the musical industry, but it could become more common in the future.

At Sculpteo, we are curious about your opinion regarding 3D printed instruments. Leave a comment to share with us your impressions about these creations. Are you ready to make a 3D printed record with your future 3D printed instruments?

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