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3D Printing- Instruments

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Auzzie-Phoenix, Jan 30, 2014.

  1. I got a bit curious to see if anyone had created functional replicas of instruments via 3d printing. Apparently some have, or have made parts for normal instruments. The possibilities of the 3d printing technology are quite numerous, but in the case of instruments it might be a great way to get your hands on a learner instrument, or might be a good way to create lightweight instruments for people with back/shoulder problems.

    What are your thoughts about this? Would you try a 3d printed instrument? Do you think the quality of feel or sound would be different (better or worse)? Discuss.
  2. I wonder what material is used in the 3D printing process? If it's not hard enough, maybe it could be used by a builder to prepare a rough prototype for a customer to approve prior to the official build.
  3. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification

    It's all been plastic so far, but I read today someone came up with one that does carbon fiber.
  4. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    I always have the same thought regarding 3D printing; show me the money. I hear endless hyperbole about the potential wonders of 3D printing and luthiery, but at the moment every 3D-printed instrument I've seen has had a conventional central wooden block connecting the neck and the bridge. Having weird honeycomb body wings is not that amazing, in my opinion.

    I've seen a 3D printer at work in a local electrical retailers. The stuff that came out was rough-textured. Mostly they were solid lumps of plastic shaped like cars, robots, teddies etc... one thing did appear to be a mechanical linkage, but it was so sloppy that you would never employ it anywhere tolerances would have to be considered. If you were to use one to manufacture knobs, switch tips, nuts or trussrod covers (the most realistic near-future use for a 3D printer in luthiery) then you would need to clean these parts up by hand to remove the ribbed texture created by adjascent polymer layers.

    At the moment I see it as a solution looking for a problem.
  5. Well, if you think about it, a 3D printer is essentially a first step in a Sci-Fi imagined replicator device from Star Trek.
  6. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    True. :D

    Wake me up when we are at the fourth of fifth step. :cool:

  7. Not sure that'll be possible. Doubt I'll see it during my lifetime.
  8. There's some other additive manufacture techniques beyond extrusion deposition (3D printing in the media).

    Surface roughness issues can be overcome to a degree depending on the tolerances of the equipment you're using, structural integrity can be quite variable too. There's a few other ways in which other materials can be used. Could produce some pretty sweet stuff using sintering processes.
  9. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    I swear McDonald's sandwiches are made with a 3D printer.

    If instruments made ever look as good as wood, strong, smooth and curvaceous, why not give it a go? But not until then; to that point, they will merely be sculptures.
  10. Dale D Dilly

    Dale D Dilly Monster

    Jul 1, 2008
    I think engineering labs and universities are already two or three steps in. The average Joe who doesn't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a printer is the guy still using the first step build-it-yourself printer that cranks out the rough layers you're talking about. The fancy printers can crank out precise, smooth, fully moving and pre-assembled gear assemblies and the like.

    Not that there still isn't a long way to go before it's all that practically useful.
  11. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Look at it as an opportunity. At one time, computers filled rooms. Today, you have tablets with more processing capability. When the Internet came about, it was meant for sharing information. Today, global commerce is done on the web.

    Imagine at some point that 3D printing became so evolved, which it will, to a point that it becomes so affordable that everyone has one. You need a part for your mountain bike. You go to the manufacturers website and pull down the needed piece and then print it.

    Imagine you are having a birthday party that sixteen people will attend. You print up sixteen plates for the meal, out of recycle able material, that has printed on it, "Happy Birthday Brenda, you old Slag".

    It's not so much solving a problem today, but opening up endless possibilities that could revolutionize manufacturing, distribution, commerce, etc.

    I find it pretty exciting.
  12. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Been there done that. When I was programming CNC machines, I had a job with one of the first large scale CNC machining operations on earth. We had the largest capacity machine shop in the free world and the largest capacity CNC machines on the planet. We could machine a larger piece than any place on earth. Our programming/engineering offices were housed in a two story building and half the second floor was a sealed unit with temp and humidity control and had elaborate air filtration, all to protect our Data general eclipse system. It had a memory that was a stack of (I think) 10 inch disks that were extremely fragile. it took a full day to swap out a full set for a fresh set. My Iphone has more storage and is faster that the largest most powerful computer back then.

    Because we were a cutting edge company manufacturers of tech gear were always sending us their latest products to evaluate in hopes we might find them useful and want to buy them. We got to play with the first inkjet printer which had 3 built in wet wells for ink that had to be manually loaded with liquid ink, and required a clay coated 8.5" wide paper roll that could only be obtained directly from the printer manufacturer. if you left it overnight with ink in it, it would be clogged up the next day and required disassembly and cleaning before it would print. Cost of the basic unit was around 10K. The ink and paper was only available from the printer maker and a kit with 3 colors of ink and 5 rolls of paper ran right at a grand.

    We also got to test one of the first CAD systems. It was run on an IBM PC AT and required a math chip upgrade to work. Cost of the software was 13K and the modded AT to run it on would set you back 8K. This was prior to the advent of the real desktop PC outside of a handful of research labs and government. If you wanted to "work on the computer" you either had to go in the computer room and work on one of three terminals there, or have enough weight to get a coax cable strung to your office so you could plug in a portable workstation there.

    This was back in the mid 80's and look at where that technology has come to since then. Plain paper color printer for $40, computers not much larger than a sheet of paper or much thicker than a credit card but 100's of times faster and capable of storing infinitely more info on a device so small you could put a dozen in your front pants pocket and not notice the bulge, with an average cost of around $30.

    Prior to that I worked on computers whose memory was a deck of 50 column punch cards. It only took 10 years to go from that to the eclipse system so imagine what's in store in the next 20~30 years and the idea of a Trek style replicator is no so far fetched.
  13. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Not all 3d printers, nor even 3d printing technologies, are created equal.

    Most 3d printers are deposition printers, which deposit melted bits of ABS plastic, and are not meant for production manufacturing. They are meant for rapid prototyping.

    Stereolithography printing is much better, and can produce much nicer, and actually usable parts.
  14. JennySuzuki


    Dec 18, 2013
  15. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    There have been some major and rapid developments of 3d printing, including metal parts. For now the technology is quite fragmented, with each type of printing being good for a few things, but no "replicator" yet. There are services that will take your CAD files and send you parts in a jiffy.

    AFAIK some crucial patents are beginning to dribble into the public domain, which might bring down costs.

    Meanwhile, stodgy old machining still chugs along. There are services for non-CAD experts, where you download a simplified CAD program, design parts, and order them from the service. And of course printed circuit boards are a venerable form of "2-1/2 dimensional" printing. And other metal forming methods such as casting and molding have made great strides.
  16. uOpt


    Jul 21, 2008
    Boston, MA, USA
    I think it will be difficult to give the material the structure that comes from fibers, such as wood.

    If you make a totally rigid bass it won't wound any good. Needs to be floppy, but flexible in one direction floppy.
  17. In the distant future, I can imagine contacting a bass luthier, discussing details, receiving high quality design pics, making my final approvals, completing my purchase, then the builder remotely prints the finished product to my home 3D printer within the same day, even the same hour. (By this time in the future, everyone owns one as a standard appliance in their home.) No shipping fees or waiting for UPS/FedEx.
  18. JennySuzuki


    Dec 18, 2013
    The folks at Aristides claim that their synthetic material is better than wood for tone and sustain. They claim their bass has zero dead spots on the neck.

    I'm fascinated by their instruments... forget neck-through, can you imagine the entire guitar made of a single-piece material? Of course, there's the price barrier again, so I don't actually have one.
  19. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    I would give it a whirl if someone handed me a printed instrument. I wouldn't pay to have one printed or to print my own, though.

    Some of those 3D printers are creepily amazing... I work in one of the higher end machine shops in Portland, OR and we received a shipment of printed parts to modify using one of our CNCs a few months back. It was crazy how the outside was smooth finished and painted, then on the inside you could see this spaghetti looking stuff going all over the place from the printer trying to bridge the gap from one area to the other (it was a sort of bowl shaped part, we were adding holes that had a tight tolerance).

    There are printers out there that will do metal printing. My boss was actually tossing around the idea of getting one for the shop, but he got a new CMM for inspection and a cell system (robot on tracks with loading stations) connecting all of the 5-axis machines instead.

    But the printers won't be replacing metal manufacturing anytime soon.