3D-printed guitar responds to a light touch
Instrument modder Frank Piesik has combined 3D printing, electronic hackery and touch sensing to create the ElektroCaster that bridges the gap between traditional guitars like a Telecaster and full-on electronic sound makers like the (no longer in production) Kitara.
Piesik has previously engaged in a number of guitar hacks to enhance standard electrics with not-so-standard robotic elements, control interfaces and audio effects, but the host instrument wasn't completely sacrificed. The main driving force for building an ElektroCaster from scratch was to light up the fingerboard.
We've seen many attempts to teach guitar using LEDs over the years, but few have actually made it to production. Of course there are luthiers and makers who will replace inlays with LEDs, but whole neck light shows are still pretty rare.
As Piesik admits he's no carpenter, he looked to his maker roots for a way to build a modular instrument to his specs – using tools like a 3D printer, a CNC router and V-Slots. On his wish list were things like the ability to change the number of strings or even the space between them, a per-string signal path so that sounds could be assigned to individual strings, and touch-enabled frets. As well as the 144 RGB LEDs.
The ElektroCaster has two computers running the show (a Teensy 3.6 for the audio and an Arduino Duo for everything else), sports a hex pickup and pre-amp and features onboard sequencing by touching strings to frets.
Piesik has also created something he's calling a Kickup, described as the opposite of a pickup. This rocks solenoids that hit the strings from beneath, to allow the instrument to replace (or perhaps even augment) the player's picking hand. There's a custom-made MultiBow sustainer module in prototyping too. Where the commercially-available Ebow drives just one string at a time for sustain, the MultiBow is designed to essentially be six EBows – one for each string.
The output from the ElektroCaster is routed to a standard instrument jack, and there's an RJ45 port too that combines the USB ports from each computer board and also provides the electronics with power. The body shape comes courtesy of 3D printing, while the internals are partly hidden using ply covers.
Piesik completed the basic build earlier this month – it's still a work in progress – and has now entered the project in the Musical Instrument Challenge section of the 2018 Hackaday Prize. You can get a feel for what the ElektroCaster is capable of (so far) in the sequencing demo video below.
Source: Frank Piesik