Full disclosure – while I have 3D printed many small items, I’ve never attempted anything very large or composed of many pieces. Part of that is because I haven’t worked with 3D printers with especially large build areas, but like most 3D printing enthusiasts, I have some grand ambitions. One thing I would love to do is 3D print a working musical instrument, and I’m awed by those who have done so. Stringed instruments seem to be a popular choice for musically inclined makers, and we’ve seen many incredible 3D printed guitars and violins.
Some of these instruments look wildly different than their more traditional counterparts, and that’s the point, as 3D printing allows for the creation of previously impossible shapes. Others, however, are indistinguishable from classic violins and guitars. Such is the case with ViolinoDigitale, a project undertaken by Harris Matzaridis to combine 3D printing technology with traditional violin-making techniques.
The process of violin-making, or lutherie, is one that has remained largely unchanged for centuries, remarkably.
“In summary, a violin is made out of 6 parts: the ribs, front and back plate, neck with scroll, an inner bass bar on the front plate and a sound post- a small cylindrical wooden part that connects the front plate with the belly,” Matzaridis explains.
Those parts are each carved separately and then assembled onto a wooden form. To create his 3D printed violin, which is modeled on the 1677 “Sunrise” Stradivarius violin, he took the same approach, 3D printing the separate parts instead of carving them, and then assembling them onto a 3D printed form. His violin was 3D printed in more than 40 parts on a customized RepRap 3D printer.
“I am a product designer and have been conducting Music Technology R&D for a little more than a decade, meantime I was using a desktop printer for standard tasks like making molds, prototypes etc,” Matzaridis told 3DPrint.com. “Then one day I looked at my factory-made printer and thought ‘what would the most extreme thing be that I could make with a printer?’ As I was building cigar box guitars at that time, I thought that a functional acoustic musical instrument printed with wood filament on a custom FDM printer would be the most challenging pursue, so I went for it. I decided to make a violin since it is an instrument that has high requirements in terms of handcrafting skills and hand assembly is an important factor for the success of the end result.”
The violin took about nine months to complete once Matzaridis started 3D printing it; from idea to finished product, it took about two years. Multiple wood filaments were tested, and the final 3D printed parts were dyed and varnished to create a gleaming finish. Intricate black designs were carved into the instrument, using a similar process to the one Stradivari himself used. It was completed in September 2016, and was ready to be played – and the sound it produces is beautiful. According to Matzaridis, the violin has exhibited the same “opening up” process as conventionally produced violins, creating a sweeter sound the more it is played.
“The general idea behind my project is that 3D printing has more potential than for what has been used so far (i.e. just like a prototyping or production tool): Instead of printing ready-to-be-used items right of the machine, a printer can print parts of a final item in ‘primitive form’- while the parts can then be assembled into a functional part utilizing handcrafted skill and traditional methods,” Matzaridis told us. “Essentially, this creates a making process where a person cooperates closely with a machine, to create a hybrid work of art, i.e halfway made by human and halfway made by machine.”
What do you think of this project? Share your thoughts in the 3D Printed Violin forum at 3DPB.com.[Images courtesy of Harris Matzaridis]
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