A Swedish professor is selling bespoke 3D printed guitars that he makes in his spare time, which he says sound as good as traditional instruments. Although they may anger traditionalists, Olaf Diegel says his range of eight electric guitars and three bass guitars, printed using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology, could help musicians create cheap, customised instruments that will last for years. Jim Drury has more.
STORY: UPSOT: GUITAR PLAYING Professor Olaf Diegel plucks a few notes on his Americana guitar. But this is no ordinary six string - Diegel has printed it himself. In his spare time the Lund University academic uses a 3D printer to fuse together thin layers of a nylon powder called polyamide to make the body of the guitar. He's made a range of eight guitars and three bass guitars, including the "Steam Punk". SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AT LUND'S UNIVERSITY, OLAF DIEGEL, SAYING: "What's cool is all the gears and the pistons inside of it move. Now what's interesting is that the entire body is printed as a single component with all the moving components inside of it." The pistons and gears don't have any practical use, but they're proving popular with Diegel's clients. He also makes drumkits. Selective Laser Sintering - or SLS - allows Diegel to easily print bespoke instruments like the "Steam Punk". He says it's helping entrepreneurs bring complex products to market at minimal development cost. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT AT LUND'S UNIVERSITY, OLAF DIEGEL, SAYING: "So if you're doing simple products, often you'll find there are better, most cost effective ways of doing them using traditional technologies but if you're doing incredibly complex products, and as an example I'll hold up this little impossible to make shape. I mean, this is something you just couldn't make any other way. But suddenly 3d printing is perfect. The more complex it is, the more it loves it." What 3D printed polyamide means for more traditional guitar manufacturing methods is far from clear - the bodies are still printed on wooden inner cores for their acoustic properties. But the structural strength of the printed models might disappoint some of the world's wilder musicians. The Who's Pete Townshend is rumoured to have smashed at least 100 guitars on stage in his time, while American rapper Kesha famously destroyed hers during shows in Rio and Los Angeles a few years ago. Diegel says his instruments could be thrown against a wall and remain intact. That could make those kind of rock 'n' roll antics much more difficult.