Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Steinway Unleashes a New Piano with 3D Printed Parts

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steinway6Growing up in Ohio, I had a cousin who would play the piano every day. I would frequently go over to her house and watch as she would play several of my favorite songs. There is just something about watching someone play a piano that is elegant, energetic, relaxing, all at the same time. If it weren’t for her tiring after about 2 hours, I could have spent days sitting there gazing and listening to the amazing music being made on that tremendous instrument.

When it comes to the art of making pianos, one company stands out above the rest. Founded way back in 1853, Steinway has been the world’s most prominent piano maker for over a century.  When Steinway decides that they will do something different, the entire piano world takes note.

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While change isn’t always a good thing, recently Steinway decided to team with a Taiwanese ceramic manufacturer, named Franz, to 3D print various components on their latest “Sun and Moon Matched” piano. The piano, which is themed after the famous Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan, mixes a bit of old fashioned piano manufacturing with modern-day 3D printing technology.

Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan’s largest body of water. The east side of the lake resembles the sun, while the west side resembles the moon, drawing tourists from all around the world who look to witness both the sunset and sunrise from the same location on the same day.

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This piano, which is limited in production to just 8 units, is the first Steinway piano to introduce porcelain as a material used. The porcelain, however, isn’t made via your typical means. The porcelain on this unique piano has been 3D printed. Taiwan is known for their frequent use of porcelain in various tools, decor and household items, so when the the Asia-Pacific regional sales manager for Steinway came to Taiwan, he suggested that they build a piano based on this concept, ultimately deciding to team with Franz to do just that.

steinway5Franz developed ceramic screws which would allow for quite a unique looking set of mosaic tiles to be placed onto the piano. 3D printing allowed the company to create intricately detailed ceramic tiles as well, tiles which could be made with much more detail without the need for any molds. Instead of using metal nuts, which ultimately effect the sounds of the piano, Franz elected to 3D print them.

At the same time, the 3D printed porcelain will go a long way in ensuring that this piano lasts for centuries, perhaps becoming a historic piece in world history, going down as the first piano to feature 3D printed components.  In the end, the use of 3D printing allowed Steinway and Franz to introduce traditional Taiwanese porcelain designs into this piano without having to disrupt any sound quality. This previously was not possible without the use of 3D printing. It’s not just the piano that features 3D printed parts though. Even the piano’s music stand, and chair feature 3D printed tiles on them.

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“I first thought about using the traditional method of wood wrapped tiles, but this does not show our inlay technique in a way that we thought was appropriate.” Lijie Wen, a designer for Franz said. “At the same time, when wrapped in wood, the thickness increases, and the music rest will not sound as nice.”

On the Piano as well as the accessories that go with it, bright yellow 3D printed tiles depict waves of water. Lijie Wen, of Franz also notes that he wanted to incorporate the theme of Sun Moon Lake into the design, so he was sure to emphasize the importances of the flow of the lake via these yellow “apricot glazed” tiles. He also wanted to include symbols of the sun, moon and mountains, and did this by creating 3D printed black tiles (as you can see in the photos provided).

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As for the price of this piano, which took well over a year to create, it is selling for $10 million New Taiwan Dollars (approximately $323,216 USD), but only 8 will ever be made produced, so this is sure to become quite a collector’s item.

What do you think about this unique new piano which features 3D printed porcelain parts? Discuss in the Steinway 3D Printed Piano forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of the piano being played below.

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