AMS Spring 2023

Rock Star of a Student 3D Prints His Own Electric Guitar

Inkbit

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Some days, I still regret that I’m not a rock star. That’s a normal regret, right? When I was in college, I tried to learn how to play the guitar. I took a class for one credit hour, but had a bit of an obstacle – I didn’t actually own a guitar, and. being a completely broke college student, I didn’t have the money to buy one. So I borrowed my friend’s guitar for the once-a-week class, but it didn’t give me much time to practice. I wasn’t exactly a natural, either – my major accomplishment was teaching myself to play the opening chords to “Stairway to Heaven,” which can easily be played by a ten-year-old. My bored teacher gave me an A, but rumor had it that everyone got A’s in the course.

I abandoned my dream of becoming a rock star, or even a passable musician, at that point – clearly it wasn’t a very serious dream, for the amount of effort I put into it. I still wish I’d managed to scrape together the money to actually buy a guitar, though, just to see how good I could be with a bit more practice.

calebCaleb Loughlin, a student at Concordia Lutheran College in Toowoomba, Australia, is a much more serious guitar player than I ever was. He’s been playing acoustic guitar for about two years, but wanted to learn how to play the electric guitar, and didn’t let a lack of funds stop him. Instead, he printed his own for an assignment in a technology course. Using the school’s new 3D printer, he printed the body of the guitar in four parts, each of which took about 24 hours. He then wired the pieces together, added a neck and strings, and received a well-deserved A for his fully functional instrument.

“I’ll probably build a few more now I know how it works,” said Loughlin. “I had a few problems along the way, when you’re working with hot plastic; it’s not an exact science.”

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The college had recently upgraded from an older, smaller printer to a new, larger one with a 20 x 30 x 20 cm print bed. Mark Carlile, head of the school’s technology department, said that the new printer has allowed his students to express their creativity while learning a skill that will likely end up being vital for many of their careers.

“We’ve built flat bed cars, parts for building cranes, new parts for machinery that were broken and even a full robot,” he said. “Caleb’s guitar really was a work of art, he knew exactly what he was doing and he stuck with it.”

3D printing has allowed other musicians to design incredibly creative instruments, so there may be a market in the near future for customized, 3D printed guitars. Loughlin, who has a strong interest in design and mechanics, is beginning an apprenticeship in metal fabrication, so if, like me, his musical aspirations don’t lead to an illustrious career, at least he’s likely to have a pretty good fallback.  Discus this incredible design in the 3D Printed Electric Guitar forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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