Oct 14, 2015 | By Kira

From Guns N’ Roses to Taylor Swift, Bach to Star Wars, English professor Neal Phillips is a music lover through and through. And when it comes to instruments, his taste is just as eclectic. While some classical musicians would scoff at the idea of a non-hand carved and polished wooden violin, just as they would scoff at mixing Mozart with Madonna, Phillips proudly shows off his red, white and blue plastic violin, 3D printed in a classroom at the very college where he teaches.

Image credit: Red Huber / Orlando Sentinel

The west campus of Valencia College, the public college in Orlando, Florida where Phillips teaches, may look like any other school, however it is home to $54,000 worth of 3D printers, housed in an inconspicuous classroom lab. Students are taught how to 3D model and 3D print during the year, but during the vacant summer months, lab manager Pat Lynch felt the urge to tackle something more complex than they had ever tried before. With the help of two student assistants, she sourced the 3D files online, and 3D printed the violin pieces within a day. Along with the 3D printed body, it is held together wit nuts, bolts, glue, and a stainless rod to withstand the tension from the four strings. As for the striking colour scheme? A fluke, according to Jackie Uribe, one of the student assistants, yet one that gives the violin a distinctly patriotic flair.

“When you have something that looks as bizarre as this thing does and then you hear the sound, people wan to know more and more about it,” said Phillips. “It’s just magnetic.” Phillips was reeled into the project after engineering dean Lisa Macon, who plays together in a band with him, heard about Lynch’s violin project. He’s a candidate as quirky and musically inclined as the violin itself—the 44 year old English professor is known to rap about research paper annotations or make his students sing about commas. He even played the 3D printed violin for his students and asked them to write a review for extra credit—perhaps the most unusual use of 3D printing technology in a classroom we’ve heard of to date.

It’s not just the aesthetic that makes the instrument stand out—it’s sound quality rivals a traditionally-crafted violin worth several times its cost. Violins in particular are considered the most delicate and beautiful orchestral instrument, a hallmark of classic music, and sourcing the kind of high-quality maple or spruce wood body that produces rich, undulating sound can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Chung Park, the University of Central Florida’s director of orchestras and spring music education says that a Yamaha violin of similar quality to Phillips’ could cost up to $750. The 3D printed model, on the other hand, made from your everyday plastic filament, came in at $121.87.

“The possibilities are pretty much endless,” said Phillips. “You need to be an idealist with this kind of thing too. All it takes is one or two people who have the power and influence to say ‘that’s a good idea.’” Along with playing in Rogue Scholars, a band made up of Valencia faculty members including Macon, Phillips is a member of Spayed Koolie, and will be performing with the 3D printed violin when they hit the stage at the Windermere Beer Festival on October 24.

The violin demonstrates the kinds of educational and interactive projects that can bring students and teachers together to learn about 3D printing technology. With the school year already well underway, Phillips imagines making a whole suite of affordable 3D printed instruments for children at local schools who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. Yet the educational value goes beyond musical instruments—as we know, 3D printing technology can be used in science classes to create accurate dissection models, in engineering classes to model architectural structures, or even in literature classes to bring classic stories to life. And, as the technology becomes more and more accessible, it will be made available in classrooms around the world as a means to teach about 3D printing in and of itself. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Donald Blake wrote at 10/15/2015 1:46:46 PM:

That's nothing check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7G9kRkggIk

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