The age of 3D printing is well upon us. As new applications seem to be sprouting up daily, students from Lund University in Sweden found a whimsical way to show the new technology has staked its ground in the everyday world, playing the first-ever concert to be put on with strictly 3D-printed instruments, according to the university. The instruments were designed and printed by Olaf Diegel, a 3D-printing maestro and professor at the university.
The band features a 3D-printed drum kit, keyboard, electric bass, and electric guitar, each played by a student from Lund University’s Malmö Academy of Music.
Diegel has been experimenting with 3D-printing since the mid-1990s, but says he only began applying the technology to musical instruments about two years ago. He has eight different guitar designs listed on the website for his brand, aptly named Odd Guitars, as well as images and descriptions of other 3D-printed musical wares, including prototypes for a keyboard, drums, and even an alto saxophone. One of his apparent side projects, dubbed the “Oddbot,” goes even further, described as an “omni-directional mecanum wheeled robot,” it is designed with angled rollers around its periphery that allows the vehicle to move sideways without needing to change the angle of its wheels.
Diegel claims that one of the main reasons he’s involved in 3D-print technology in the first place is to draw attention to the tech’s real-life applications beyond simple prototypes. Diegel himself has contributed to a project involving 3D-printed shoe inserts for diabetics. However, while the medical industry seems to have already become somewhat acclimated to the revolutionary technology, Diegel says musicians have been a harder sell.
According to Diegel, his students have been pleasantly surprised with the sound quality of the plasticized gear. “Musicians are very creative, but also very conservative, so their reactions have been interesting,” Diegel says. “They first approach what is essentially a plastic guitar with suspicion. Then, when they have a play with it, they’re amazed that it sounds and plays like a high-quality electric guitar.”
Its evident after a quick listen that the band featured in the above video of the performance does appear to pull off a performance not much different than your average band using traditional instruments constructed with metal and wood. The video is only a few snippets in the background of the interview, however, so it’s not entirely clear how well this stuff actually plays in person.
You can order your own custom-built, 3D-printed guitar right now from ODD, but it’ll cost you a bit more than your average instrument. According to Diegel’s website, small-bodied guitars, like his Scarab and Spider designs, will cost $3,000, single-color, regular-sized guitars go for $3,500, and those with intricate air-brushed paint jobs for a full $4,000. Alternatively, you may just want to wait a few years for the technology to catch up, and print up a band setup for your very own.