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'3D' guitars a blast from future

11:52 Sun May 13 2012
AAP
A Massey University professor says his '3D' guitars are part of an industrial revolution in manufacturing (supplied)
A Massey University professor says his '3D' guitars are part of an industrial revolution in manufacturing (supplied)
An exotic-looking lattice-bodied guitar made using an innovative construction technique showcases "the next big thing" in manufacturing, says its Massey University maker.

Mechatronics professor Olaf Diegel has made a series of the guitars, adorned with spiders and butterflies, using "3D printing" or additive manufacturing.

The process makes three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file using a printer that deposits layers of plastic or metal powder, with each layer fused by a laser beam.

It eliminates the waste normally created when a solid piece of material is machined down to shape.

Once the guitar bodies are printed they are manually fitted with inner wooden cores, necks, tuning keys and strings.

Prof Diegel is now selling his guitars online, and says they show that what began as an experimental project is not just a gimmick.

"It's the next big thing in manufacturing, because you can create to order and modify the design to suit specific individual requirements, whether it's for a new set of teeth, a door handle or a piece of jewellery."

He predicts that in about a decade many households will have 3D printers for replacing or updating personal and household items, reducing the need for mass production that can lead to stockpiles, over-supply and therefore waste.

"It's the next industrial revolution and it's going to completely change the way we do things," he said.

Massey has several desktop 3D printers, which students use for small-scale engineering prototype projects.

So far Prof Diegel has printed several small guitar bodies - such as the shocking pink "rock chick" model - in New Zealand, and two larger ones in the United States where they have larger printers.

"If someone wants geckos, or flowers, or parts that can move, it will eventually all be possible through the online design software we are working on."