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French engineer makes first 3D printed electric violin

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The '3DVarious' violin won't cost you as much as a real Stradivarius, but that doesn't mean it's cheap. French musician Laurent Bernadac has created the first-ever playable instrument by 3D-printing technology. It's very light and resonant, but do these qualities justify paying thousands of euros?

Bernadac claims his instrument - the first-ever electric violin made using a 3D printer - is worthy of stage performance. 

Bernadac claims his instrument - the first-ever electric violin made using a 3D printer - is worthy of stage performance. A graduate of Toulouse conservatoire, he has based his prototype on a real Stradivarius.

"The idea came from far away. I am both violinist and engineer, and after my studies in mechanical engineering, I was looking for a project that could merge my two passions. I didn't arrive directly at the 3D-printed product; I first went through different prototypes, different processes, but finally this was the one I chose and the one that works," he said.

His initial attempts using aluminum and Plexiglas failed, as the sound produced was unsatisfactory and the instrument too heavy.

The breakthrough came when he switched to translucent resin using a technique called stereolithography, or optical fabrication, a process in which objects can be manufactured by "printing" thin layers of material one on top of the other.

At 440 grams, the resulting violin is ultra light, about half the weight of regular electric violins.

"The fact that it is light, it allows you to take away all tension and have movements which are much more fluid, it allows movement on the stage without problems and to almost forget that you are holding a violin, which is not the case when you are holding a violin that is heavier than 800 grams," Bernadac said.

The printing itself took 24 hours, but further work on the instrument took a week, because excess resin had to be manually removed, the surface cleaned, and the structure treated with a UV polymerizing lamp. Finally, the strings were attached to the instrument.

"It really has some characteristics, I mean, I always come back to the mass, but it is extremely important, seen from the violinist's perspective: the lighter your violin is, the fewer problems you will have, so this electric violin is the only one, to my knowledge, that has the same mass as an acoustic violin; the other electric violins are much heavier. And the second advantage is that the trajectory of soundwaves is not affected by any sort of gluing and screwing," Bernadac said.

The '3DVarious' prototype costs 10,000 euros, but Bernadac hopes to bring the price down to 4,000 to 6,000 euros in future. He says that he has already received a few orders.


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