These days, 3D printing experts can make virtually anything out of a few grams of PLA. However, it’s still fairly difficult to print full musical instruments (or even instrument parts) that produce high-quality sound comparable to the kind created by instruments manufactured in a more traditional manner. But that’s exactly what makers Kaitlyn and Matt Hova have done. Their completely 3D printed violin is proof that there’s no reason for an instrument’s acoustic quality to suffer just because it was made with a MakerBot.
With Kaitlyn’s experience as a professional violinist, neuroscientist, and software engineer at 3D Robotics –as well as Matt’s diverse careers in record production and electrical engineering– the husband and wife team have all the bases covered for this project. The Hovalin is a fully functional 3D printed violin that sounds nearly indistinguishable from a world-class wooden version. What’s more, the Hovalin team designed the violin in such a way that it requires less than one kilogram of PLA to make. This helps keep production costs low, as the cost of raw materials comes in at around $70. However, if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, a prefabricated and fully-assembled Hovalin will cost $600.
3D printed musical instruments aren’t an entirely new endeavor, but Kaitlyn found that the novelty of the violin kits she had found elsewhere soon wore off when she realized the sound quality wasn’t up to par. The Hovalin was inspired both by the FFFiddle, an electric 3D printed violin, and the classic Stradivarius violin. From its inspiration in the best of 3D printed technology and the world’s most reputed violins, the Hovalin strives to straddle arts and technology in order to make a difference in the future of STEM education.
In fact, STEAM (STEM alongside the Arts) is a project that the Hovalin duo take to heart, and it’s easy to see why. 3D printed instruments and accessories could help schools find funding for music programs through STEAM grants, and empower kids to take a hands-on approach to their own arts education by being a part of the process from start to finish. “Giving kids the chance to teach themselves how to use CAD and 3D printing programs empowers kids to solve problems in a creative, effective way which will create the ‘makers’ of the future,” said Kaitlyn Hova.
The Hovalin is particularly accessible thanks to the specialized 3D printing kits available for every level of maker. For the experienced or ambitious 3D printing enthusiast, the full kit includes STL files to 3D print the parts for your own Hovalin and assemble it from scratch with the included strings, rosin, tuner, and a carrying case. If you’d prefer a head start in your Hovalin kit, you can order the various parts pre-printed and ready for assembly. Of course, you can also order a complete, assembled, ready-to-play Hovalin directly from the team and immediately jump into the experience of top-quality acoustics emanating from a 3D-printed instrument.