May 4, 2016 | By Alec

Remember Olaf Diegel? A Swedish professor at the University of Lund, he has become famous throughout the 3D printing world for designing a number of truly remarkable 3D printed instruments, including this spectacular 3D printed steampunk guitar. He even set up a band relying almost solely on 3D printed instruments. Diegel is now back with another amazing project, having just completed work on the Heavy Metal guitar: the world’s first 3D printed aluminum guitar, a gorgeous instrument that would not look at of place at a Guns N’ Roses concert.

As Diegel explains, he returned to 3D printed guitars to find out exactly what metal 3D printing is capable of. “[I also wanted] to better understand the intricacies of the whole process, from ‘design for additive manufacturing’, to the actual 3D printing of the guitar, to the post-processing that is required to go from a 3D printed metal part straight of the machine to a usable masterpiece,” he explained.

The gorgeous intricate design of the Heavy Metal guitar is therefore also intended to push the limits of metal 3D printing. All design was done in Solidworks CAD software. As a dedicated guitar fan might see immediately, the body shape itself was inspired by a Telecaster model though the front and back plates were replaced with a barbed wire motif. Fortunately, all pointy ends are aimed away from the musician. “The guitar was originally nick-named War and Peace, but Heavy Metal seemed a more appropriately literal name,” Diegel revealed.

3D printing itself was done by Dutch 3D printing service Xilloc, who did a fantastic job. The entire body is made from aluminum and was 3D printed on an EOS M400 metal additive manufacturing system, which uses powder-bed fusion technology to 3D print 0.1mm thick layers. Due to the immense heat involved, this 3D printing technology also requires support material – but then to transfer out the heat to prevent distortions or stress.

As Diegel explained, the work wasn’t done there. After 3D printing, a metal part has effectively been welded to the build plate and needs to be sawn off (a wire EDM system is also often used). This is followed by the removal of all support material, which heavily covered all the barbed wire and flowers. A simple model is often cleaned with a CNC machine, but Diegel needed to protect all the model’s complexities with hand-cleaning. “In total, it probably took me about 4 days to remove all the support material. Now that I have developed certain techniques, and a better understanding of the support material, I could probably cut the time in half if I had to do it again,” he says of the experience.

This is followed by the time-consuming task of improving the surface finish. “Straight off the AM system, the surface finish could best be described to one similar to a sand-cast part. To my mind, the best way of thinking of current metal AM technologies is in exactly the same way one thinks of sand-casting. If, for example, we sand-cast an engine block, all the surfaces that require good surface finishes will need to be machined in a post-processing operation. If one thinks of metal AM in the same way, one will never be disappointed,” he says.

To achieve a smooth finish that is comfortable to the touch and beautiful to the eye, Diegel needed to put in some effort. Through extensive filing and sanding (and some shot-peening), he achieved a satisfactory finish in about four days. Again, this was largely due to the complex design of the artwork. A further day or so was needed to install all the electronics and wires. But the result is truly stunning; the most beautiful 3D printed musical instrument we’ve ever seen. If you’re interested in exactly what neck, bridge, pickups, tuning heads and other equipment were used to complete the guitar, check out Diegel’s blog here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Nitram drofdeb wrote at 5/10/2016 12:22:29 AM:

How does it sound?

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