Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
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: