Mar 20, 2016 | By Tess

In the past year there has been much excitement surrounding the creation of 3D printed instruments, as the technology has allowed for designers to create some seriously interesting and futuristic-looking musical instruments. Florida based Monad Studios, for instance, created a set of five stunningly designed 3D printed instruments which showcased how the technology could be used to rethink the design of existing instruments. Not only valuable for rethinking instruments, however, the technology has also been used to recreate and honor some more timeless and traditional pieces. Australian 3D printing company 3DLI, for example, has just unveiled what is reportedly the world’s first functional 3D printed sitar.

The sitar, made famous by musicians such as Ravi Shankar and The Beatles’ George Harrison, is a plucked stringed instrument that has existed in Indian musical culture since as early as the 16th century. While the bowled instrument has traditionally been constructed out of wood, a group of Australian makers set out to create a plastic 3D printed version of the instrument, and to our delight it sounds really good.

Last year, the same team at 3DLI created what they dubbed the first ever 3D printed tabla drums, another traditionally Indian instrument, and they seem to be keeping up with the theme, begging the question whether they will soon be putting together an entirely 3D printed classical Indian band.

3D printed tabla drums

Of course, designing the instrument to be 3D printed wasn’t as simple as that, as it not only had to look right, but more importantly, it had to sound right too. As the team at 3DLI explains, “We were interested to pursue this challenge to validate that a stringed musical instrument as unique as a sitar could be 3D printed whilst maintaining its distinct sound quality and tonal qualities.”

To begin the process, the makers at 3DLI had to create a digital model of the instrument, which they accomplished by reverse engineering the sitar’s structure and drawing it up using a CAD software. The first challenge, of additively manufacturing an instrument measuring as long as 1.2 meters, was easily overcome by 3D printing the design in separate pieces and welding them together, as can be seen in the video below.

The team, which followed the design of a traditional sitar, goes on to explain, “We maintained the wall thicknesses and hollow cavities as close as possible to the original sitar.” For the additional parts of the instrument, such as the bridge, frets, and strings, the team chose to use standard pieces to keep the quality of the sound as authentic as possible.

Overall, the process of 3D printing the sitar took only about two weeks, and the team at 3DLI are confident that they will create their next one in less time. The Australian 3D printing company is even planning on making their 3D printed instrument available for order, with customizations available, no word as to how much the instrument will retail for.

3DLI’s 3D printed sitar is a real feat in the realm of 3D printed instruments, as it demonstrates the technology’s ability to create not only new and tech-oriented instruments but also ancient traditional instruments, like the tabla drum and the sitar.

Traditional wooden sitar



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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