We’ve seen 3D-printed violins before, but they used an electric pickup to amplify the sound of the resonating strings. Using a newly formulated white resin, Formlabs instead 3D-printed an acoustic violin that relies on its shape, internal chambers and the material its made from to produce an authentic violin sound. Brian Chan, an engineer at Formlabs, had previously built a hand-carved wooden violin based on a design he found in a violin-making book dating back to 1884. Different types of wood are what helps a violin produce its unique sound, and Chan wondered if the same could be accomplished using a 3D printer and plastic resins.
He ended up making three different versions of a 3D-printed violin, each one improving on its predecessor before settling on a design that he was happy to pass off to violinist Rhett Price. Balancing the thickness of the plastic which needs to be thin enough to resonate and produce sound, while sufficiently thick to withstand the pressures and forces of the violin’s tightened strings, was the biggest challenge. But eventually Chan found ways to strengthen the instrument while still allowing it to be played.
We’ll be the first to admit that we can’t hear the difference between a classic Stradivarius being played, versus something like a Guarneri del Gesù, but Formlab’s creation sounds a lot better than we thought it wood, given it’s made from mostly just plastic.
Will it fetch millions of dollars at an auction like a Stradivarius can? Probably not. But it exists on the other end of the cost scale. Formlabs has made the plans and models for this violin available for download over on Pinshape completely free if you want to try and make one yourself. You’ll still need to add a few other non-3D-printed violin components like strings and a bow, but you’ll be saving lots of money in the process.