3D printing gets its groove on at Euromold


Euromold visitors and exhibitors will be serenaded by an unusual looking musical combo this year. But it's not necessarily the musicians in the ODD band that will be attracting attention: all eyes will be on the instruments, which were manufactured using 3D printing technology.

Image courtesy ODD.

The guitars, drums, and keyboards are the brainchild of Olaf Diegel, whose day job is professor of mechatronics at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. "One of my main areas of interest is 3D printing and its use in the reduction of the product development cycle," writes Diegel on his university bio page. His personal interest in music led him to channel that technology in a uniquely creative way, as can be evidenced by the 3D-printed instruments displayed on his website, www.odd.org.nz

Diegel began exploring the concept of 3D-printing instruments in 2011 and started designing and selling his creations in mid-2012. It wasn't long before he decided to form a partnership with 3D printing pioneer 3D Systems, which features some of his guitars on its consumer site, www.cubify.com. The division of labor "allows me to concentrate on the designs, while [3D Systems manages] production," Diegel told PlasticsToday. "All of my guitar designs are of shapes that would be difficult or impossible to machine or mold, and 3D printing also allows me to customize every instrument for the customer, at no extra cost."

If you're a musician or even just a music lover, the question that immediately comes to mind is, how do the materials and production process affect the sound of the instruments? Mostly, they don't, according to Diegel. "In the case of the electric guitars, the body material—a Duraform polyamide—has relatively little effect on the sound, which is mostly created by string vibrations [going through] the pickups," he explains. "The material does have a small effect on sustain, but our use of wooden cores inside the guitars means that they are, to all intents, a standard small-bodied electric guitar."

Diegel was expecting a different outcome with the Atom drum kit (pictured) but, surprisingly, "to my untrained ear, I could not hear a difference between the 3D-printed kit and the regular kit I had alongside it," he said.

Diegel will be bringing the 3D-printed drum kit, basses, keyboards and several guitars, notably the mesmerizing Steampunk guitar, to Euromold. The entire body of the Steampunk guitar, including the moving gears and pistons, is printed in one shot. Watch the video posted here for a preview.

You can get an eyeful at stand E68 in Hall 11 at Euromold, where Diegel's instruments will be displayed when the band is not rocking the Euromold crowd.

Additive manufacturing has taken an increasingly prominent role at Euromold, ostensibly the leading international trade fair for moldmaking and tooling. As Karen Laird noted in a recent article in PlasticsToday, "it is also the major 3D printing and additive manufacturing event in Europe."

That's one good reason to strike up the ODD band.

Euromold returns to the Frankfurt Exhibition Center from December 3 to 6, 2013.

Norbert Sparrow

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