If you've ever been in a band, you'll remember spending time personalizing your instruments. Guitarists and bassists spend hours decorating or ordering custom parts for their four-, six-, or twelve-stringed friends. Personalization is one of the key elements of the Makers Movement, and it just took one person to connect the two acts - making in general, and the personalization of guitars. That person is Olaf Diegel, whose day job is as a professor of mechatronics in Auckland - for fun, he founded ODD Guitars, a small company that creates and sells guitars and basses made in part with 3D printing.

Sound purists have no fear: the heart of the guitars that Diegel designs is still traditional and couldn't be otherwise, since instruments have to sound good - aesthetics are just a bonus. The guitars have a wooden inner core to join the guitar bridge to the neck, in mahogany or maple. Maple is also used for the neck, and either ebony or rosewood for the fret board. Other components like pickups, heads etc are standard parts that can be chosen by the person ordering the piece, so that each instrument is absolutely unique, developed by Diegel in tandem with the client.

The AtomB is a bass inspired by Diegel's first 3D printed model

The 3D printed part is the body of the instrument, which is printed on demand or in small lots in the States by 3D Systems. The printer used is a laser sintering sPro 230 machine with Duraform powder, a material similar to nylon but more resistent. The precision of this printer comes down to one tenth of a millimeter. The advantage of 3D printing guitars is that it allows one to make shapes that are not possible otherwise. Diegel has taken this concept to its max in his guitars that alternate full and empty spaces. Three dimensional decorative elements are inserted in the cavities in line with the theme of each guitar's name - spiders, atoms, bee hives etc. The creative options are pretty much unlimited here, hopefully within the limits of good taste and sense, since the sound of the guitar depends on the core, traditional elements only.

The lower end of a Scarab guitar - note the solid core

The results reached by ODD Guitars are impressive both in terms of sound and aesthetics. The first guitar they ever made, the Atom, was inspired by the form of oil on water, which Diegel has associated with atomic structures. The shape is that of the famous Gibson Les Paul. The insect world is, on the other hand, the inspiration behind the Spider LP guitar and the Hive bass, again shaped like the Les Paul. Two further instruments, the Spider and the Scarab, were developed by Diegel in an all original shape invented specifically for 3D printing and with extreme personalization. The small, trapezoidal shape is far from traditional, as is the decoration of these two instruments.

Details from the Americana guitar body

The most surprising guitar of all is the Americana: the shape is, again, that of a Les Paul, but the body contains miniature laser sintered reproductions of famous New York monuments, from the statue of Liberty to the Love statue and a prospective view of the Brooklyn bridge. This decoration could really only be done with 3D printing.

ODD Guitars is evidence that 'serious' 3D printed products can be made at a reasonable market place, costing around 3500 euros (plus customization), which is the starting price for a Gibson Les Paul... and they don't even customize it for you!

Photo credits: ODD Guitars


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