Back in January, South Africa's Hans Fouche demonstrated the capabilities of his custom-made Cheetah 3D printer by creating a full-sized lawnmower. Last month saw the release of the Cheetah 2, which Fouche celebrated by printing a working car jack made from plastic and now an acoustic guitar. What makes this dreadnought stand apart from instruments printed by the likes of Olaf Diegel and Customuse is that the whole guitar (apart from steel strings and tuners) has been produced by the printer, not just the body.
As you can see from the photo below, the template for the 3D-printed guitar was a Yamaha dreadnought. The instrument has a 6 mm (0.25 in) wall thickness, which gives it a rather chunky soundboard and back but this will be reduced for the next prototype, which will also sport reinforcement webs and a carbon fiber rod for the neck.
The printed acoustic tips the scales at a weighty 3.5 kg (7.7 lb). Rather than make use of fret wire, the solid ABS neck also includes raised plastic bumps at each of the instrument's 20 fret positions. The bridge is also part of the print, as is the head.
The finished guitar isn't going to compete with anything crafted by a master luthier, who can take months to build a custom acoustic. In fact it definitely has the look of something you might find at a fire damage sale, but it took only 6 hours to print and works as a playable instrument.
"One interesting thing is, that this guitar will stay tuned, even in the rain," Fouche told us. "Humidity will not affect this plastic guitar, as it does a wooden guitar."
The guitar's main purpose was to demonstrate the capabilities of the Cheetah 2 printer, which was also the aim of the printed car jack. The latter was printed in 3 hours and is made up of a two part 3D-printed main beam, a 3D-printed arm and hinge pins. To this, non-3D-printed nuts and bolts were added to fix the components together and a threaded bar to apply the force. Though Fouche told us that the jack did suffer from alignment problems and a broken hinge pin at the end of a full day of testing, it did manage to support the weight of a car and "as a first prototype, it performed remarkably well."
The baseline Cheetah 2 prints with a 3 mm nozzle direct from ABS, PLA or EVA granules at up to 600 g per hour and has a massive one cubic meter print volume. Big and fast does translate to a hefty price tag of US$9,800, however. Larger and quicker options are available.
As demo videos go, the one below isn't the best but it does show the 3D-printed instrument in action (the poor audio quality is reported to be the fault of the camera, not the instrument).
Update Dec. 22: Hans Fouche has now posted another video of the 3D-printed acoustic being played, with much improved sound quality. You can see it in a home studio setting in the second video below.
Source: Hans Fouche