Watch: A Stradivarius Made from a 3D Printer

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - 05:02 PM

Precious string instruments have been making headlines lately, with the sale of Bernard Greenhouse's cello for more than $6 million and the news of a controversial study that compared rare 18th-century violins with modern ones.

But the notion of an Italian master craftsman spending months perfecting a violin? Well that is so 2011.

EOS GmbH, German firm that specializes in three-dimensional printing technologies, has developed a 3D-printed replica of a Stradivarius violin that it says is fully operational and, some will argue, not bad sounding.  

The instrument was made by creating a digital model of an ordinary wooden violin. The model was then sent to a 3D printer, which produced the entire body of the violin in one piece, made from a thermoplastic material. Once the bodywork printing was complete, the researchers just had to add a few parts including strings, pegs, chin rest and bridge.

The Economist magazine first featured the instrument in a cover story last spring and it has since caught the attention of inventors and technology geeks. The instrument's developers say that the goal isn't to create a violin that's superior to a wooden one but rather to print a working instrument that's acoustically and ergonomically similar. "The violin was a technology exercise," an EOS representative told Wired magazine. "We wanted to test what we can achieve with our technology."

It may not be coming to a concert hall stage near you anytime soon. Still, if the 3D violin has one advantage over the old-fashioned kind it's speed of construction. The conventional manufacturing of a violin consists of about 500 steps and usually takes three months of handicraft time, according to EOS. Using a process known as laser-sintering, the body of the violin is manufactured in one piece and within a few hours. A flute has also been developed using this technology.

See the violin in action below and share your reaction in the comments box below:


More in:

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Comments [2]

Aside from the point of ease of mass-production, I think it would be interesting to hear an A-B demonstration in the video with the plastic violin and a real Stradivarius.

Feb. 02 2012 02:26 PM
David from Flushing

While I am no person to judge the sound of a violin, the concept of making a violon of a homogeneous material without a grain is interesting. This might illustrate what wood contributes to the sound of the instrument and opens up an area of acoustic research.

Some years ago, a ceramics firm in Japan created a small orchestra with instruments of their making for a company event. The Met Museum has several ceramic instruments though they are thought to have been only decorative.

Feb. 01 2012 08:02 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Follow WQXR 


About WQXR Blog

Engage and interact with the WQXR hosts online.