More and more musical instruments are rolling out of 3D printers. This is not only leading to entirely new designs, but also to new ways of producing sound.
The Multi series is a special series of instruments made on a 3D printer that have science fiction-like designs. The instruments no longer really look like their traditional predecessors. They include violins, a cello, a sitar, two didgeridoos and a wall that produces sound.
The way in which the instruments produce sound is also quite unique and fully in line with their revolutionary and fantastical design. It is induced by piezoelectricity, i.e. by bending the material. Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials, such as crystals, in response to applied mechanical stress. Conversely the material may also deform when an external electric field is applied to it. Materials with this effect include quarts, topaz, ceramics but also lots of polymers.
French violinist Laurent Bernadac used a 3D printer to make a violin based on the design of the Stradivarius. The 3DVarius has strings and a bow and a hip contemporary design which is accompanied by a spectacular sound. The transparent body of the electric violin is made from a single piece which, according to the maker, has nothing but a positive effect on the sound. Once launched onto the market the 3DVarius will cost over EUR 6,000. It is a bargain compared with an original Stradivarius, which is worth millions.
Open source design
Numerous other designers have successfully produced musical instruments that sound reasonable to good using 3D printers. These range from a guitar and melodica to a saxophone. The Hovalin, which is also based on the Stradivarius design, is an open source printable violin, meaning that anyone who has access to a regular 3D printer designed for the consumer market can print the instrument out. The material costs are around fifty euros.