Swedes Stage First Ever Concert on 3-D-Printed Instruments

The band rehearses with Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instruments.
Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instruments.

Olaf Diegel’s 3-D printed instruments.

Forget the 3-D-printed hip replacement, the latest breakthrough in 3-D printing technology is the world’s first concert played on 3-D-printed instruments! The performance, reports 3-D Print, took place yesterday at Sweden’s Lund University, featuring band members from the Malmö Academy of Music playing on drums, a keyboard, and electric guitars designed by professor and 3-D-printing pioneer Olaf Diegel.

Though some musicians are instinctively suspicious of plastic instruments, Diegel finds that their concerns are usually quickly overcome. “The sound is different, not better or worse,” he told the BBC, likening any stigma his instruments might carry to that which was attached to plastic-backed Ovation guitars in the 1980s, until “people became fans of the new sound.”

Olaf Diegel's 3D printed guitar.

Olaf Diegel’s 3D printed guitar.

Diegel’s guitars, in particular, are undeniably works of art. Using computer software, he designs complex sculptural shapes in the bodies that would likely be impossible using conventional methods: an elaborate American flag-inspired affair with a tiny Statue of Liberty nestled amid the stars and stripes; an intricate honeycombed structure featuring tiny bee sculptures; and a stunning array of interconnected mechanical gears that actually turn.

Once Diegel is happy with the design on screen, a 3-D printer takes over, creating the instruments line by line. Then, says Diegel, “I have to paint them afterwards to make them look really pretty!”

The band rehearses with Olaf Diegel's 3D printed instruments.

The band rehearses with Olaf Diegel’s 3-D printed instruments.

In addition to the tremendous aesthetic appeal of these sculptural instruments, boasts Diegel, “I can also tailor instruments very precisely for musicians who want their instruments custom-made.” He’s been perfecting the process for two years, and has been experimenting with 3-D printing since the 1990s.

Next, Diegel plans to create 3-D-printed woodwinds, promising never-before-achieved musical effects, like a single flute that can play an entire chord. “We’re just starting to scratch the surface of applications of what you can do with 3-D printing, and music’s just one of them,” he says. “The next five years, I think, are going to be the cool years.”

Check out this video of the 3-D printed band rehearsing before the concert:

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