Although far from reaching it’s full potential, the 3D printing industry has evolved by leaps and bounds in its young existence, quickly turning doubters into believers as chalkboard material is now turning into a reality. 3D printing has risen from a technology of interest for hobbyists and forward-thinking businessmen, to a technology that has garnered serious, mainstream attention from both businesses and consumers alike.
On August 26, 2013, two publicly-traded 3D printing companies, 3D Systems and Stratasys, got a shot in the arm as their stock jumped by five percent after Citi analyst Kenneth Wong predicted that the market for 3D printing will triple in the next five years as “consumers start to extend use case beyond small batch manufacturing,” 1. In order for this market growth to occur, 3D printers need to appeal beyond business interests and into individual’s homes by becoming reasonably priced, accessible to all, and easy to navigate for the user. Theses three phases are already underway, inching closer to the objective of successfully integrating the 3D printer into everyday life.
Wong went on to say the 3D printing market “is on the cusp of seeing much broader adoption across more upstream production applications and the consumer end market,” 2. With this growing integration of 3D printing in our everyday life, it is reasonable to expect that the current consumers will expand the way they utilize what is currently in place now, as the impending realm of 3D printing continues to grow. Overall, the market jump sent a strong message that 3D printing is the future and it will change the way we manufacture products, both commercially and eventually in our own homes.
With this excitement regarding the potential of 3D printing, one’s mind begins to wander when considering the possibilities. 3D printing has the ability to change the way we manufacture little things like watches and jewelry, to weapons and musical instruments, as well as cars and airplanes, all while striving keep the production localized if access to 3D printing tools are readily available.
Musical instruments are one area that designers and engineers have already dipped their toes into when experimenting with 3D printing. Musical instruments as an industry has the potential be one of the areas that throws the 3D printing market into efficient, industry wide use in the not-so-distant future.
As a professor in mechatronics at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, Olaf Diegel has been experimenting in 3D for almost fifteen years. Recent advancements in 3D printing enabled Diegel to combine two of his passions to establish ODD Guitars, custom guitars in which the body of the instrument is constructed using 3D printing technologies.
In talking about his Spider model guitar, designed with a spider-webbed frame, Diegel claims that 3D printing, “makes it possible to manufacture ‘impossible’ shapes,” 3. Diegel goes about his process by sending his guitars to 3D Systems, located here in the U.S., to print the bodies of his guitars using Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) on a sPro 230 SLS system. Using a very strong nylon called Duraform PA, laid down at a resolution of 0.1 mm repeatedly, the body of the instrument is constructed. The inner core of the guitar has a wood foundation, often consisting of mahogany or maple, helping to smoothly transition the neck of the guitar to its bridge.
This leaves the individual designing the instrument the ability to customize their own guitar to their liking and playing style. This way of constructing a guitar, or any musical instrument, gives the musician complete control of artistic design, sound, and feel to the piece. This is an aspect that all aspiring musicians are relentlessly searching for, a unique sense of personalization to their instrument.
As the resources involved in 3D printing have evolved, the substance and impact of this technology has continued to catch up with the potential and expectations of this high-speed train, guiding us towards a new era in production and distribution.
About the Author: Ben Woodruff is a writer for the 3D Printing Channel. For more information go to www.3DPrintingChannel.com.
1. Sharma, Rakesh. “About Wall Street’s Enthusiasm For 3D Printing. Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Aug. 2013.
2. Chen, Kevin. “Market for 3D Printing to Triple: Report.” Taipei Times. Taipei Times, 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 30 Aug. 2013.
3. Gill, Chris. “From Another Dimension: ODD 3-D-Printed Guitars.” Guitar News – Lessons – Gear Reviews – Music Videos – Guitar World. Guitar World, 30 May 2013. Web. 30 Aug. 2013.