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:

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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

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