Some Intriguing Notes on a 3D Printed Ukulele

3D printing by Stratasys Dimension 1200es the ukulele body and tuning pegs

3D printing by Stratasys Dimension 1200es the ukulele body and tuning pegs

Since his 11th birthday, Matt W. has been making wooden instruments, such as violins. His day job is working for a company that designed and manufactured hand tools for the dry-wall industry.

Recently, Matt was tapped to be his company’s 3D printing expert for new tool prototypes. Why was the company investing in 3D printing?

  1. Prototyping with 3D printing was a better alternative than using their milling machines since the milling process was extremely time consuming.
  2. Prototyping with their CNC machines was a huge waste of resources – they would rather be producing final parts on their CNC machines.

Matt found that he was able to get up to speed very quickly – both on the 3D modeling software as well as on the Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D Printer that the company bought. But what he really wanted to know was: Could his new work expertise cross over into his hobby by 3D printing a ukulele?

Where’s the Wood?

The Stratasys Dimension 1200es and workstation at Matt's day job

Traditionally, ukuleles are designed with aged koa wood, and it normally takes many months to manually shape and form an instrument.

Matt was able to design a 3D model of a full sized 13.875" (35cm) scale length ukulele in SolidWorks 2013 in about a week of his spare time.  He has been tweaking it ever since.

The material Matt used for his ukulele is ABSplus.  The cost for one neck, body and set of tuning pegs was about $170 and it only took about a day and a half to print.

Although Matt doesn’t see wooden instruments being completely replaced by plastic versions, he feels that there are definitely certain areas where 3D printed instruments will be preferred:

  • Travel Instruments – 3D-printed plastic instruments are far more durable than wooden instruments and therefore able to survive the “trauma” of travel and baggage claim.
  • Experimental Sounds – 3D printing allows designers and musicians to try different and strange things with the instrument that simply could not be done with wood.
  • Customization – The short production time and low cost of 3D-printed instruments will allow for customized instruments.
3d printed ukulele

The case for 3D-printed musical instruments

Entering the World of 3D Printing

How would Matt describe his entry into the world of 3D printing? In terms of his full-time job, his short answer is “very cool.” The longer answer is that he can now prototype tool designs much faster – in a matter of hours, instead of days. The Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D Printer was very reliable and the company says they haven’t had any problems.

How was his experience with 3D printing for his hobby of instrument building? I think the pictures and the sound in the video speak for themselves!

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified), French, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil)

Comments

  1. Chris Boensel says:

    This is really great. I would love to be able to either get a copy of the CAD for this. My son is 7 and has been playing the guitar for a year and he has been looking at also playing the ukulele. I think this would be very cool to make. Please let me know if it is possible to get in contact with Matt.

    Thank you,

    Chris

  2. Terrific tone! I didn't expect that at all. There is often rather a lot made of 3D printed stuff which still seems at the dawn of the technology and with a long way to go. However, this sounded great!

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