I am a big string instrument fan — including the violin, viola, and cello — with the violin being my favorite. And the violin has traveled quite a long way to get from its 5000 BC roots as an indigenous Sri Lankan instrument made of a coconut shell covered in goat hide, to today’s 3D printers. Through trade routes between the 7th and 10th century, it arrived in Europe, changing from a two stringed instrument into the four stringed instrument we know (and many love) today. And now we have a further transformation of the beloved violin’s origins, as an electric one has been 3D printed by Laurent Bernadac of 3dvarius and an acoustic version by Russia’s Unique-3D.
Some of us may know the violin from the lessons we took as children or symphonies we’ve attended. Others may know it more commonly as the fiddle. The most renowned violin, worldwide, is the Stradivarius, which is honored for its craftsmanship and sound, and can be as expensive as several million dollars. For those of us who prefer the lower expense of a different kind of crafted violin, like a 3D printed one, we’re in good company today.
The world’s first (electric) 3D printed violin was released recently by Frenchman Laurent Bernadac of 3Dvarius. Bernadac has taken years with this creation, seeking to model his violin sound after the renowned Stradivarius — of course. Now Unique-3D has stepped up to also add its own 3D printed violin to the growing list of printed musical instruments.
Unique-3D claims that in addition to the essential designing and modeling that comprised this successful print of a violin, it’s their Sitall glass they used in their printing process that is essential. They explain:
“Usual methods for bed adhesion such as Kapton, Scotch Blue painter’s tape, Glue Stick and Hairspray do not satisfy and will seriously reduce the quality of the print product. Glue residue and textured painter’s tape remain on the 3d printed products and look ugly and unfinished.”
Once the bed cools to 80C, the violin came off the glass bed with no problems, leaving the back of the violin as “smooth and shiny as a mirror.” One can imagine that the smoothness results in better acoustics: after all, who wants to play an even slightly warped or bumpy violin? You can also tell from viewing the photos that Unique-3D’s printed violin is larger than the usual size.
It may not be a Stradivarius, but the ongoing 3D printing of musical instruments brings instruments, like the violin, squarely into the twenty first century. That’s a long way for this string instrument to travel, with many twists and turns, from Sri Lanka, through the early trade routes to Europe only to be transformed into the classical instrument we identify today. Finally, Russia-based Unique-3D puts its own technological spin on this ancient acoustic instrument, inspiring more people to join the 3D printed musical instrument arena.
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