With an ever expanding range of advanced 3D printing materials capable of a wide range of applications becoming available in the past year, FDM 3D printing is undergoing a bit of a revival. For years it was always ‘okay, what’s next’ but now I see makers lining up to use FDM 3D printing less as a replacement to other manufacturing options and more as just another tool on a workbench. Yes, we’re at the point where we can 3D print entire guitars capable of sounding exactly like traditionally manufactured instruments, but we can also use 3D printing to radically alter the way that guitars can be used.
When Andrew Strassell, the owner of an independent custom guitar company, was looking to innovate the way musicians use guitars, he came up on an idea that really could be the start of a massive upheaval to guitar manufacturing. One of the main drawbacks to guitars is the fact that pickups, the electronics underneath the strings on electric guitars, are almost impossible to swap out. Because different types of pickups will create different tones, musicians looking to experiment with different pickups in their music would generally need to have more than one guitar. Not only is that costly and unrealistic when you’re on a budget, it’s a little annoying to need to continuously switch between instruments while playing.
It’s not that pickups can’t be changed on a guitar, but it’s time consuming and because the entire instrument needs to be taken apart and rewired to do so, there is a very real chance that the guitar could be damaged during the process. But Strassell designed a guitar that had a 3D printed pickup cartridge that would make the pickups completely swappable on the same instrument and as easy to change as inserting a video game cartridge. This allows musicians to easily switch between a traditional heavy metal sound, to a blues sound and then over to the twang of a country music guitar. It also allows guitar players to put the pickup cartridges in backwards which will reverse the polarity and open up an entirely new set of sounds to experiment with. All on the same guitar and all in a matter of seconds.
“Local bands, that’s the group of people who are going benefit most from this. They no longer have to go out and spend $1,500 on a Les Paul that they’re never going to want to take apart, because they spend $1,500 for it. It’s more high end than a cheap Korean-built guitar, and this gives you far more options,” Strassell told Mic.com.
Here is some video of Strassell showing off his first custom guitar with swappable pickup cartridges:
Strassell still holds down his day job while custom building his guitars at night and on the weekends, and currently he only takes on custom projects on a case by case basis, but he wants to change that. Strassell Guitars is still a small company run out of his New York City apartment, but he won’t be doing that for long once his idea catches on. He thinks that the idea is a big one and so he has filed a patent for the swappable pickup cartridges, and he just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to expand into a larger workshop and bring staff on to ramp up production.
“The industry is lacking innovation. More and more people are moving away from playing guitar, and I think it’s a staple of music. The industry hasn’t pushed the innovation agenda. They’ve relied far more on, ‘Oh, here’s the reissue of the thing we did in 1960.’ I think there’s a demand for innovation in their instruments and figuring out a new way,” Strassell continued.
Strassell’s Indiegogo campaign is seeking an ambitious, but not unrealistic $50,000 to jumpstart the business. And because it’s on Indiegogo, the flexible funding option eliminates the need to hit his goal in order for backers to receive their custom guitar. Currently there are only a few completed guitars using the swappable pickup cartridges but that will be changing soon. He recently sold his first to musician Josh Shabtai of Brooklyn’s Controller, a modern dance rock band with a fun indie sound.
You can get yourself a custom guitar from Strassell Guitars by backing his Indiegogo campaign here. You can learn more about the swappable pickup cartridge system over on the Strassell Guitars website here. You can also discuss this story here.