Husband and Wife Team Up to Create Hovalin, the Open Source 3D Printed Violin

Formnext Germany

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One of the many advantages of inventing something is that you get to name it. Even better if your name and the thing you have created have some sort of phonetic connection – it just seems right then that the creators of an entirely 3D printed violin, Matt and Kaitlyn Hova, combined their name with their instrument and have released the Hovalin.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 12.18.05 PMThis journey through the musical landscape was first inspired by an Instagram image of David Perry playing his creation the F-F-Fiddle. When Matt Hova first saw the image, he didn’t realize, however, the lengths to which this initial piqued interest would take him. After ordering a F-F-Fiddle, he was notified by his primary client, his wife Kaitlyn, that she wasn’t completely satisfied with the instrument:

“[M]y #1 client didn’t quite like the way the thumb felt. A normal person would have just forked and redesigned the FFFiddle to have the appropriate attributes. Instead, I dove into the 3D design rabbit hole: first with OpenSCAD, then with Fusion 360.”

As you can imagine, this was no overnight project. Or one that can be tackled on a 3-day-weekend. In fact, it is only now, after a year and a half of working at the idea that the Hovalin was finally ready to make a public performance. This isn’t because the Hovas were working at a slack pace, but rather because of the complexity of the project itself. Even expert luthiers with dozens of years of training and practice under their belts estimate that it takes about 250 hours to build a violin. That’s without having to find the form, experiment with new materials, and learn computer software.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 12.18.14 PMThat’s right, the Hovas learned their way through this project from the ground up. They did bring some powerful skills to the project; Matt works as a senior engineer at Autodesk and Kaitlyn is a front end software engineer at 3D Robotics. At least, this is what they do during the day. Kaitlyn is also a professional violinist of no small talent, who has been making a splash on the music scene ever since she was a child, and Matt is an avid audio and video production hobbyist who is rumored to have such powerful skills that he could, “make an album by Paris Hilton palatable.”

In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Matt Hova explained the process of creating the Hovalin as husband/wife makers:

“[T]he violin has evolved from a broom stick into a broom stick with a chin rest, into a solid violin with tuning pegs near the bridge and, most recently, into a hollow violin with tuning pegs on the neck. At every step Kaitlyn, professional wife/violinist, was able to provide expert feedback and make sure, beyond looking like a violin, that the design made actual sense to an end user.”


The creation of the Hovalin was an incredibly involved process–and one full of learning moments, as Matt Hova explained to 3DPrint.com:

“I remember on December 26th last year after everyone else had fallen asleep, I had the option to continue digging through my OpenSCAD spaghetti code or learning how to use a more powerful 3d cad tool. I started designing again from scratch with Fusion 360. It was pretty humbling for the first few months. I constantly found myself running back to openscad when I ran into an operation I couldn’t figure out in Fusion. I had some amazing help from Fusion 360 pros like Taylor Stein, Andreas Bastian, and Carl Bass as well as other tips and tutorials in Fusion 360 forums and on youtube.”

The Hovalin isn’t just a novelty either. It had its public debut at the opening ceremony for a public digital library and maker space in Omaha, Nebraska–“It was great seeing how a robot hot glue gun could create something worthy of a moment in the spotlight at a black tie event (not to mention, Kait and the band played a killer set),” Matt told us–and will be used in another performance scheduled for November 6-8 at San Francisco’s STEAM carnival. Check out a play test of the very first working version at Matt Hova’s Instagram account.

So what is next now that they know the instrument is not just functional but also worthwhile? They have plans to engage in a complete redesign of their creation, starting from scratch in Fusion 360, in order to create the .f3d files for release and to work to create 1/2 and 1/4 size versions of the violin. The Hovas are also very interested in working with schools to integrate music and making in a way that would allow kids to create their own instruments.

According to Matt Hova,

“The four biggest goals going forward are:

  1. Redoing the entire design from scratch in Fusion 360 using best practices and then releasing the .f3d files
  2. Creating 1/2 and 1/4 size violins to make the instrument more accessible for kids
  3. Better instructions on fighting PLA warp. It’s can be avoided, but it definitely requires attention first layer best practices.
  4. This is the big one: Working with schools to develop grants that can be a complete STEAM package. We’re very excited about the idea of having maker spaces in schools that can also fuel music programs.”

If you’d like to get your hands on a Hovalin of your own, they are available now through the Hovas’ website and you can either print your own parts or simply skip to the end and order on that is fully assembled. A full set of instructions are offered for those who wish to create on their own, along with a warning to children not to try this without parental supervision. The print time for the 4 parts is estimated to be 26 hours and to use 480 grams of plastic for production. Add to this some time for finishing and assembly and you’ve got an instrument that you will know inside and out by the time it is ready to use.

All you have to do now is bring a certain level of musical ability to the equation and you’re well set for the experience and performance of a lifetime.  What are your thoughts on this design?  Let us know in the 3D Printed Violin forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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