3D-printed guitars show fusion of design and technology at Geelong conference

3D-printed guitar

Swedish professor and guitar creator Olaf Diegel admits his axes would have Jimi Hendrix rolling in his grave.

But then Jimi never played one.

“A lot of musicians, in one way they’re modern and forward thinking but at the same time, they’re very conservative,” said Professor Diegel, who is attending an international conference on design at Geelong’s Deakin University.

“So often when they see something new like this, they’re slightly suspicious when they first see it, but then they try it and they realise it plays good, it sounds good and it looks incredible.”

Professor Diegel, the head of product development at Lund University in Sweden, makes electric guitars using a 3D printer.

His intricate designs – from a telecaster with inlaid rotating cogs and pistons to an Americana guitar with a New York skyline nestled in the body – are made with a level of precision, strength and consistency which would be beyond the dreams of traditional guitar makers.

The guitar bodies are designed on a computer and come to life as layer upon layer of nylon is precisely printed.

The balance and customisation of the guitars can be individually tailored with minute detail.

While the guitar itself led the musical revolution, this process of 3D printing is leading the revolution of manufacturing.

“When you design almost anything, you design in a virtual world – you design in computer-aided design software – which means you can design anything, even stuff that has in the past been impossible to make,” Professor Diegel said.

“That was often a problem because designers would design stuff that was completely impossible to make but now suddenly you give them these toys where it’s no longer impossible to make, so if they can envision it, get it in the computer, they can make it.

“Now they have got to re-earn how to design for these technologies to really take advantage of them.

Striking a chord between science and design

The fusion of artistic design and engineering has been highlighted at an international conference at Deakin University.

About 70 researchers and experts in the fields of design, technology, engineering and education took part in the conference, looking at the possibilities of integrating design and science.

“Automotive, aerospace industries, they are all using these technologies in a very serious way to improve their products,” Deakin’s Professor Ian Gibson said.

No longer can engineers expect to focus on the science of an application, without considering the design outcomes.

Professor Guy Littlefair, Deakin University

“Technology plays a significant part in lots of products that we use in our everyday lives [but] we really need to understand that the technology itself has to develop and has to be suitable for its purpose.”

Deakin’s head of school of engineering, Professor Guy Littlefair, said design needed to be a major consideration in the future of all technology solutions.

“No longer can engineers expect to focus on the science of an application, without considering the design outcomes,” Professor Littlefair said.

“Consumers are increasingly demanding high-tech and personalised design solutions to products and unless researchers understand the look, feel and functionality of an application or product, the concept will remain words or maths on paper.

“Similarly, designers can no longer focus only on aesthetics, ergonomics or form, but must consider the purpose of their product and ensure it includes smart functionality and the necessary technology to meet these demands – whether that be within industry, or the community.”