3D violin

November 15, 2013 at 04:26 PM ·

Replies (57)

November 15, 2013 at 04:38 PM · I prefer the goblin on your photo.

November 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM · is the soundpost integral to the body?

November 15, 2013 at 07:16 PM · My friend showed me this exact clip a week ago sparking the debate between us over plastic and wood. He argues through R&D (finding ways to replicate sound waves) you can get a similar if not exact wood sound. I say no matter what, you can't print out age, especially wood's age. Also I doubt it would stand the test of time like almost any non VSO.

Im sure these 3d printed violins would have to be properly set up by a luthier anyway, soundpost and all other fittings. Even if the 3d printer took that part of their jobs away we would still need them for proper fittings. Darn, we almost had a way of getting rid of them!

November 15, 2013 at 08:41 PM · They say it is synthesized out of PEEK, which is the same polymer used in Zyex strings. I bet if you strung it up with a set of those, the resulting resonance would blow out all of the windows in the building!

Or, at least make most folks nearby want to cover their ears....

November 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM · Fascinating stuff. If you told me 10 years ago they would "print" a working violin, I would have thought you belong in the looney bin.

With some experimentation using materials with different densities and playing around with the plate thicknesses, it might be possible to create a really fabulous instrument. But the best part is they would be able to reproduce it exactly.

With conventional violins, there is quite a bit of guess work and refining and even the best makers come out with duds from time to time. But I would guess that a computer generated violin would come out almost exactly the same from one to the next.

November 15, 2013 at 11:57 PM · "He argues through R&D (finding ways to replicate sound waves) you can get a similar if not exact wood sound."

Trying to use a material with vastly different properties will not work the same acoustically. Even if you give up on volume and just go for tone, using PEEK is like trying to make a violin out of ebony plywood, and try to get it to sound like a normal violin. I don't think it can be done, but I won't drone on about all the techincalities.

Spruce is amazing stuff; I am not aware of any man-made material that can match its properties for stiffness and density.

November 16, 2013 at 07:42 AM · my only "to boldly go" into star-wars luthery is a wooden fiddle covered in carbon fiber. it does look strange but i much prefer its sound over my german (sandner) all-wood fiddle - when i play it at medieval events i say it's made out of dragon skin ...

wood appeals to all the senses - i can't imagine anyone looking at a lovely, lustrous, well cared for violin made from wood would ever have the same feeling for a composite, poly-something, hunk of plastic.

November 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM · It would be good for luthiers having resin casts of Strad, Del Gesu, Amati instruments, casts of the scroll, top, back and ribs. It is a pity they are not commercially available.

November 16, 2013 at 03:30 PM · 3-D printing is still an emerging technology. I believe the first 3-D printer was invented sometime in the early to mid '80s. It was not many years later that the hi-tech engineering company I was working for started its own 3-D printing research program so as to avoid the expensive and lengthy process of designing and making specialist machine tools for the manufacture of each new product, and thereby save millions.

I have little doubt that if enough R&D and investment were put into the making of 3-D violins then one day (i.e. in several years time) we could be hearing a quality of sound that has hitherto been the preserve of wood.

November 16, 2013 at 04:53 PM · Even if it sounds as good, most violinists wouldn't admit it I would think.

November 16, 2013 at 05:15 PM · don't know about that - those carbon-fiber violins have their appeal. add black or a *bling* color to the mixture and it might make a huge difference in terms of acceptability.

November 16, 2013 at 06:44 PM · I have yet to see anyone actually using a carbon fiber violin. They don't seem all that acceptable (price, tone, appearance?), at least around here.

Until such time as there are 3D printers that can print a cell-like microstructure out of carbon fiber, I don't think there's any way they'll match wood acoustically.

November 16, 2013 at 11:17 PM · Plenty of respect here for Don Noon's opinions.

He's the retired NASA guy, I'm a traditionally trained luthier.

November 16, 2013 at 11:33 PM · beauty survives.

November 17, 2013 at 01:07 AM · Just recently, my teenage interest in classical guitars entered a period of renaissance, and I spent some time looking for a guitar on the internet.

A brief search brings so much data about different designs, especially different bracing patterns, inside classical guitars, but also Martin's developments of X bracings and scalloped bracings to support metal strings.

Are there copies of Torres guitars? Yes, hundreds, thousands of them. Did modern guitar designers stay with it? No, they improved on it, inventing asymmetrical bracing patterns,

designing lattice bracing and using both carbon fibber and balsa materials. These inventions, as well as doubled top plates brought a completely new types of well projecting and great sounding classical guitars.

It is a pity that violin maker's world is still "stuck" with old masters, but this ridiculous attempt to blindly copy a Stradivarius, not knowing even the basics of violin making and the applied acoustics is beyond comprehension.

November 17, 2013 at 05:08 AM · Rocky,

Over the last couple of decades, I have tried many variations of bracings, carbon fiber laminations, you name it. I have also seen and heard others' experiments along the same lines. Some have been louder... but the aesthetics of the tone has been odd, in one way or another. I have found that the best results is when I make something very close to what Strad or Guarneri made, and I wouldn't say I'm blindly copying. Rather, I'm seeing why they work so well.

One "problem" is that the gold standard of desirable tone is the old Cremonese guys, and to sound like that, you need similar materials and form... or at least similar in the acoustically important aspects.

November 17, 2013 at 05:58 AM · no doubt about wood being preferred over plastic resin but if student-quality instruments can be made now, imagine what luthiers will be able to do with the technology when variables such as stiffness, density, micro-alterations in shape and size are added to the process.

... brave new world, etc., etc..

November 17, 2013 at 01:46 PM · Some time ago I mentioned in one of these threads the possibility of a 3-D printed violin. I did not expect it to come that soon.

I believe in scientific experimentation and have no doubt that a material will soon be found that has the acoustic properties of tone wood.

Smiley mentioned that identical copies of the 3-D printed violin can be made. I would imagine in future violin competitions, candidates will play on identical violins and only skill will separate them and not the instrument.

David needs not worry about the future of his profession. Luthiers will still make violins just like the Swiss watchmakers continue to make expensive mechanical watches. The plastic timepieces may be more accurate, but they do not have the beauty and timelessness of the classical kind.

Don’t you think handmade violins are beautiful works of art and they give tremendous pleasure to the beholders ?

November 17, 2013 at 03:02 PM · I didn't want to weight this topic down with details, but there seems to be quite a few who don't seem to appreciate how phenominal spruce is as a basic material, and how difficult it will be to make anything like it, with regard to the mechanical properties that are acoustically important.

I looked into it. To match the along-grain speed of sound of spruce, you'd need to use beryllium, diamond, or carbon fiber. Steel, aluminum, and titanium won't quite get there, and plastic isn't even in the ballpark. Then you need to somehow reduce the density by a factor of 5 or more by making a honeycomb or cellular structure. Not easy.

I don't discount the possible uses of printing for student starters, or dimensional aids for luthiers, but acoustically, there's a big hill to climb.

November 17, 2013 at 03:28 PM · If the goal is to create a violin that sounds exactly like a particular strad, then yes it is a tall order. But even a modern maker using aged wood wouldn't be able to do it.

But if the goal is to create a really great sounding instrument, I don't see why it can't be done. The ability to experiment with the exact same materials, and adding thickness here or there offers a lot more control than a luthier starting with a block of wood that is different every time.

A number of years ago, they didn't think a computer could ever compete with a human chess master. Well, it was just a matter of time before that was proven wrong. I don't know if they will ever create a plastic violin that sounds and projects like a wooden one, but I certainly wouldn't dismiss the possibility.

And I agree, even if they do create fantastic plastic fiddles one day, David Burgess will still have a lucrative business.

November 17, 2013 at 04:03 PM · Although it would be very nice to have a Strad-like tone for a fraction of the price, I'm much more excited by the idea of a violin with an entirely different tone. Do we really want every violin to sound the same? Discussions of an alternative violin seem to suggest this way of thinking.

November 17, 2013 at 04:39 PM · "I'm much more excited by the idea of a violin with an entirely different tone."

I have quite a few experimental violins with entirely different tones hanging in the shop. Wanna buy one? No? Most other players don't either.

November 17, 2013 at 06:27 PM · nabobs of negativism are starting to sound like buggy-whip manufacturers ...

i'll always prefer wood - mainly because i was raised to appreciate its beauty. who's to say future esthetes won't value PEET in the same way?

November 18, 2013 at 11:51 AM · You would have to completely redesign the violins shape to optimally utilize a material like plastic, wood has different strength is three directions, across the grain, with the grain and tangentially through the grain. Plastic is the same strength in all three directions. The violin is specifically designed for the unequal characteristics of spruce or other softwood for the top, replacing it with plastic is only going to duplicate the shape, never the tone.

PS when the last time you knocked on a piece of plastic and it sounded as pleasant as knocking on a good piece of wood??? That's one of the reasons a marimba's wooden keys are in no danger of being replaced by plastic.......

November 18, 2013 at 12:42 PM · like i say - it's a whole new world.

the idea of buying a bag of PEET to put in your object printer and printing-out your own violin is an absolute marvel.

will i throw away my existing violin? - no.

would i enjoy experimenting with the computer program so as to design my very own fiddle? - yes.

November 18, 2013 at 01:34 PM · Bill K sez:

i'll always prefer wood - mainly because i was raised to appreciate its beauty. who's to say future esthetes won't value PEET in the same way?

Don made a good point: the violin sound Gold Standard is based on the Cremonese master's output. Find a way to make a PEET instrument's sound be a widely accepted standard, and you just might make the change. My personal view is "it ain't a-gonna happen."

Modern luthiers creating instruments that rival Strads/DG? That, I can believe.

November 18, 2013 at 05:06 PM · Everything about the violin world is so standardized!

November 18, 2013 at 05:21 PM · Here is the reaction from electric guitarists to 3d printing:


November 18, 2013 at 06:54 PM · Who cares what electric guitarists think? They generally have a totally different mentality on so many levels.

I personally don't want to see violin production, except for the lowest levels, become technologized and then of course, corporatized.

Going back to guitars, we all know what happened to the reputation of Fender after they were acquired by CBS...

November 18, 2013 at 07:03 PM · Yes, they have a different mentality. That's my point: every other instrumentalist has a different mentality but for some reason violinists are an entirely different breed! Okay then, how about trombonists:


There is a plastic trombone that goes for about $150 that sounds half decent. They get it, it's not going to replace their metal instruments but is something that is handy to have for gigs where they don't want to take their good instruments (among other reasons).

What's really interesting is if you look at the poll at the top only 1.8% said no way, the overwhelming majority saying that they were going to get one or already had one:

Question: would you get a plastic trombone aka pbone?

yes - 37 (33.9%)

no - 13 (11.9%)

maybe if i do research - 5 (4.6%)

plastic trombone? NO WAY! - 2 (1.8%)

yes, might be fun to try - 22 (20.2%)

already have one! - 30 (27.5%)

Total Voters: 106

November 18, 2013 at 08:34 PM · I think the 3d electric guitar isnt quite the best comparison but the trombone is a better comparison. I think you could even compare it to the pocket trumpet. Im not a brass player but I have friends that have actually played both the pBone and pocket trumpet. Both gave them good reviews but still said on higher levels it isnt worth the compromises. A higher level pocket trumpet can stretch the furthest of all of them though.

All this still makes me think of this plastic 3d violin as either a student (or higher level student) level instrument or a beater back-up violin. Don't get me wrong I like innovation but in the violin world its harder for something new to beat out or even be accepted alongside something so tried and true. Look at the carbon fiber violins. Most see it as a good touring and outdoor instrument but never a full on replacement. Would/can a plastic violin take a CF violins place? And until we see a price, how would it even compare to traditional violins? If we can see it cost the same as a pBone (~$150) and go alongside ~$400-500 violins, I think it may have a chance.

We have the technology, but do we want to spend the time and money on it? Even if its expensive at first?

November 18, 2013 at 09:06 PM · One can't really argue with the sound that guy got out of that violin. Really, if nothing else, this could lead to instruments being more obtainable on the student level without compromising sound as much as many students do, buying vso's because they simply can't afford to buy a $2,000 instrument

As both a classical violinist and non-classical violinist who loves both Hilary Hahn and Lindsey Sterling, for example, inventing something different like this shows creativity, not anti-traditionalist sentiment!

I think, unless 3D printing reaches even more wonderful heights than it already has, to the point where an audience member would not be able to tell the difference between a 3D printed violin and a wood one, seeing them on stage in the hands of a professional musician would be unnerving, unless said musician were known for their quirky, unusual style (such as Lindsey Sterling, for example), so traditionalists need not worry that their luthier or anybody else's is going to go out of business. The introduction of electric violins, as an illustration, did not seriously affect the violin community in any long standing negative way.

But, as an aside, 3D printers are no longer restricted to just plastic. Jewelry makers are using them to create high quality gold and silver pieces, and who knows what the next several years could produce in material that can rival the sound production of a wood instrument, and perhaps surpass them in strength and value (as in a ratio of cost to benefit). Who knows?

But, anyway, I think classical and traditional styles will not suffer much of anything from this advancement, only increase accessibility.

November 18, 2013 at 09:10 PM · I don't think either the printed electric guitar body (with a standard wood bolt-on neck, by the way) or the plastic trombone is really a valid comparison for the plastic violin, as the way sound is produced in the first two is primarily by things other than the plastic. In the violin, the plastic is THE sound producer. So with the guitar or trombone, you might get something that sounds more normal, and just have to deal with visual aesthetics and economics.

And, personally I think the sound of the printed violin is quite poor, and expect that if you heard a direct comparison to a normal one (same conditions), it would be even more apparent.

November 19, 2013 at 03:26 AM · Actually my point with the guitar and the trombone was to show reactions from other instrumentalists on a forum much like this. There is not the assumption that someone wants to replace all instruments with some plastic thing, neither are they comparing high end instruments but realizing they are looking at decent low end products. I couldn't really find anybody on those forums fiercely shooting down innovation.

Present something unusual to a bunch of violinists and they immediately start thinking how it wouldn't work for Perlman in the Carnegie Hall and more to the point wouldn't match his priceless Strad. The trombonists presented with a plastic trombone say 'That looks like fun, I could play it at pub gigs on on the beach and for only $150 I could let my kids play with it, have something that sounds half decent but don't have to worry about, keep it in the trunk of my car...."

We are a creative community, let's look at this in a creative way.

November 19, 2013 at 03:50 AM · We already have wood violin, bow and case for $39.99 and up on ebay, where the hell is there going to be a niche for relatively expensive 3D printed violins that sound worse??????

November 19, 2013 at 04:06 AM · Electric/acoustic violins!

November 19, 2013 at 02:10 PM · Lyndon Taylor... Really? When was the last time you heard a forty dollar violin? My student has a hundred dollar vso that I would burn if I could... And another student just replaced their VSO with a shar etude, one of my favorite student violins out there, but still not comparable to my more valuable strad copy. It's a you tube video... How great can it possibly sound? It looks like it was taken on an iPhone (very small microphone) in a huge space. There's not really a way to judge how awful it sounds.. To me, it sounded like a decent violin that due to greater availability of materials and less labor will cost relatively less. The other thing is that for *me* to jump on board completely with something like this, I need to feel it, I need to actually play on it, but my point regarding a quality inexpensive student violin remains.

As for observations regarding how we violinists respond to different things like this as compared to other instrumentalists, I believe it's because we take ourselves too seriously! Those jokes about violinist pride that we all suffer through sometime or another is really making light of truth... Our instrument is a source of arrogance, and anything a little weird like this drives us crazy because it feels like it takes us down a notch. You don't have to buy this violin, but some people might like to, so stop complaining about it, and just see what it's like when it has been released into production.

November 19, 2013 at 02:19 PM · Well you can't even burn a plastic violin, the fumes might actually kill you. cheers

November 19, 2013 at 08:28 PM · LOL, you're right, of course regarding plastic fumes. Perhaps, though, we can agree to withhold absolute judgment until we've given everything enough time... I'm guessing the first wood violin made probably sounded more like a vomiting goat than our Stradivarius-level ideal. :-)

November 19, 2013 at 08:53 PM · Actually plastic (and metal) violins go back to the turn of the 20th century, tonally plastic is one of the worst and least pleasant sounding materials to make a violin out of, wood on the other hand perhaps the best sounding materials we have. If you understood the difference between how wood vibrates and how plastic (or metal for that matter) vibrates, you'd realize that the whole design of the violin is specifically suited to the vibrating characteristics of wood, not plastic or metal. its just a novelty item for performers who want to play in the rain etc. I don't see how on a per unit cost basis it could ever compete tonally with wood.

For a plastic or metal violin to ever compete, it would take a complete redesign of the violins shape to suit the totally different vibrating characteristics of the new material, that or some super expensive process of laminating plastic to behave unhomogenously like real wood. I think it takes two or four times as long for tones to cross the grain on a violin top, as to go lengthwise along the grain, plastic would travel equally in both directions so to sound similar the violin would have to be 2 or 4 times wider and just as long, that probably isn't going to work!!

Don Noon, perhaps you could correct and clarify what I am trying to say about the speed of sound in spruce being different depending on which direction of the grain it follows, and how plastic would normally have identical speed of sound in all directions.

November 19, 2013 at 10:49 PM · The thing about wood is that it sounds....woody.

If for some reason everyone decided that somehow the very nature of the sound of a wood instrument was undesirable, then I could see going to something else. But as it stands, the other materials are judged by how well they emulate the core properties of the wood sound.

It makes about as much sense to me as taking a digital photo and then adding grain with software to make it look like something else. You might as well just use film...

November 19, 2013 at 11:19 PM · "Don Noon, perhaps you could correct and clarify what I am trying to say..."

I suppose I could put it in more precise technical language, but that would probably not help for anyone but the few that understand it already. Suffice it to say that the violin's sound is the product of the material properties, form, arching, and thickness. There are about a dozen variables necessary to describe the properties of a material, or infinite if you want to include frequency-dependent damping. And there is a world of difference between spruce and plastic in most of the variables. In my opinion, the materials differences can not be compensated very well by changing the geometry.

So, if you dream of a cheap, violin-sounding-object that you can play at the beach and use for digging crabs during the breaks, printed plastic might be just the thing. If you want any kind of response and true violin tone, I'm thinking that is unlikely without vast leap in the materials used.

It might sound like I'm a Luddite about this stuff, but I'm just trying to point out the technical/acoustic limitations as I see them.

November 20, 2013 at 12:21 AM · I'm very open minded about these things and don't see something like this as the end of violin making as we know it. However, I do object when they make a violin out of modern materials but use the standard shape with standard scroll, f-holes and corners. It's a bit like making reproduction Chippendale furniture out of plastic. I understand what they are trying to do but I would think that the next step would be to explore the uniqueness of the material tonally and this may include a unique design.

Anyway, I play electric and amplified acoustic and certainly see potential in that area. I don't really understand why things like this have to be held up against the very best wooden violins. It's a bit narrow minded to be quite frank.

I believe innovation deserves support, or at least some creative evaluation and imagination. From some comments you'd think it was a violin made out of sh*t!

November 20, 2013 at 09:57 AM · in terms of sound, the double bout shape with smooth, waisted middle and "f" holes may be what works best in any material - the weirdly shaped, exotic looking "objects" which preceded the existing viol family line-up probably didn't sound as good.

as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as it can be, i don't think wood is the paragon of violin making material. as stated earlier, the micro adjustments possible with this technology open up a whole world of possibilities: a tiny hole here ... increased rigidity in the sound board there ... slightly narrowing or increasing the size and shape of the bouts - anything is possible.

all acoustic instruments have a sound chamber - wood, metal, plastic, hide, gourd, clay - nothing new under the sun. add some knock-down, gorgeous colors and i'm sure everyone will want one.

... or - after much anguish and many sleepless nights - will be willing to sell them in their shops, even.

the DIY factor with this is huge. if a computerized violin making program and packet of PEET was all one would need to make a violin, i - for one - wouldn't hesitate to buy it.

mind you - i like the look, feel and sound of my carbon-fiber-coated fiddle and wouldn't automatically react negatively to something similar in resin.

November 20, 2013 at 11:25 AM · If 3D (and CF) violins are going to be successful it will be necessary to fundamentally redesign the instrument to explore the full acoustic potential of the new materials, as suggested by Bill in the preceding post. And, while we're about it, take in on the way that issue on most violins wherein it is rare to find a G string that produces a strong fundamental in the range G(open)-C, a deficiency we are not fully aware of because our brains synthesize a virtual fundamental from other sound data.

There is already a precedent for this approach in that a fundamental redesign of the viola has been done by a luthier in the USA (I don't remember his name) with a view to getting the best tone out of the instrument without making it physically unplayable. His instruments, I understand, have a distinctive appearance.

Luthiers worked hard many centuries ago over a long period to develop the mediaeval instruments into today's violin. Now, we must be prepared to enter into a new phase of development.

November 20, 2013 at 01:44 PM · Scott sez: Who cares what electric guitarists think? They generally have a totally different mentality on so many levels.

Hear, hear! I, for one, do not purposely add distortion to my performance. :-)

Luddites? I definitely am not a Luddite. However, I also don't embrace technological gimmicks. New technologies should be evaluated on their merits and value equations. (Oh, wow -- I used to do those evaluations for a living!!) :-)

Look at Popular Science and Popular Mechanics over the years: they would have some snifty new concept on the cover, with the question "Will XYZ be the wave of the future?" Most did not pan out, but some did (usually not in the way the article envisioned).

It's one thing to say that the plastic 3D fiddle is an interesting experiment. It's quite another to say that strads are doomed. Google the "Hype Cycle." It's a way to measure the progress of a given technology by the press it gets. At the peak of the Hype Cycle (lots of press with glowing predictions), the technology is not ready yet: all the press is to gather venture capital to back turning the technology into a product.

IF the technology holder gets financial backing, and IF the technology works out, and IF analysis shows there is a market, and IF everything goes right, THEN maybe (just maybe) that technology will emerge as a product. Even then, the product might be a flop.

Until you see ads showing prices, it's all premature speculation.

My $0.02 is that 3D-printed fiddles will auger in on market analysis. But in the meantime, it's kind of fun to talk about.

November 20, 2013 at 03:04 PM · New technology for the violin, in the form of new materials, has been with us for at least half a century - non-gut strings (they're still trying to get them to play and sound like gut, but it's not quite there yet), and non-wood bows (CF bows can match wood at most levels, but still not at the very top). Nevertheless, generally speaking we're happy with the now not-so-new technology.

Non-wood materials and innovative manufacturing techniques for the body of the violin are a logical development. We are an inquisitive species.

November 20, 2013 at 04:14 PM · I think most synthetic materials tried so far have the limitation of having uniform properties in all dimensions, i.e., they don't have "grain". If they did, the otherwise uniformity of the product could make for pretty high quality.

Christopher Payne's last comment is interesting. If the source of said raw material consumes enough of the right kind of fibre in the diet, might it be possible to build some sort of "grain" into the resultant product?

I haven't heard much of the music of the guy who lived from 1587 to 1654.

November 20, 2013 at 10:15 PM · How about plant-fiber composites? Check this:


November 20, 2013 at 10:46 PM · Heh heh, in this case, isn't "plant fiber composite" a dodgy-fancy name for Formica? If so, it might be fine for ukeleles, but probably won't cut it on a fiddle. Experimentation with synthetics for fiddle making has already gone far beyond that.

November 29, 2013 at 11:27 PM · I partially withdraw here. Within the powder PEEK could have different properties in different dimensions, but the method of printing may not align the grains of powder to the extent that they could be aligned.

January 3, 2014 at 02:56 PM · To indicate the possibility of progress in the field, a starting point is to make use of Dale Langsather's R&D http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=15651 . If you tapped that synthetic strad in different places (or if you couldn't get anything out of that, printed the different parts and tapped them) you might find massive differences from the good sounding wood original. If you then fiddled around with thicknesses, etc. to get the right resonances, you might end up printing something with a much better sound.

December 22, 2015 at 08:45 AM · I was looking information about 3D printed violin and I found a lot of new violins created by using the 3D printing.

By example, this violin:

the guy called it a 3Dvarius. Keep in mind that it's not an acoustic violin but an electric one and the name is a 'tribute' to Stradivarius. The guy uses it as an electric guitar with a pedal board. I really enjoy the sound.

I found also this 3D printed violin :

This one is more futuristic and uses only 3 strings. So not sure if we can say that it's a real violin. It's also an electric violin.

December 22, 2015 at 05:38 PM · I'm worried about how the player is supposed to hit the high notes on the violin with that big arch over it... :)

January 4, 2016 at 04:29 PM · You're right ;)

I think that the second violin can't be really considered as a 'real violin'... Just 3 strings, so it's a little bit reductive.

January 4, 2016 at 09:44 PM · This is a bit of a long comment. I wrote it because someone was telling me that this kind of violin would be great to bring classical music to the third world and the masses at large. I really wanted to believe it... but then, I thought about it for a little too long. Here's what I came up with. This is probably off topic for the current conversation above ^ but perhaps closer to the OP's comments over 2 years ago.

Wood is living, breathing... it changes with the seasons, bringing out different colors and textures, making even the least snobby person perk their ears. That said, a wooden instrument can be prohibitively expensive, particularly in the developed world, with our high labor and material costs. And many poorer people in the developed and third world cannot afford instruments in many cases, even the ones that are cheaper for others; and that is a great shame.

However, the plastic 3D printed ones will be great for those who can't afford anything, right...? Not necessarily. There are cheap wood plywood instruments being sold for less than $100 dollars all over the internet, and I'm betting this will cost at least $100 on the market; don't forget, the bridge, tailpiece, pegs, button, and soundpost still have to be made out of expensive hardwoods and bought. Even on a normal violin, this adds a huge about to the cost; 4 decent strings = at least $20 to make, let alone sell, a bridge that won't allow the strings to cut into the fingers = spendy, often $60 dollars, in the third world, like $5 (which is still a lot; I have family living in relatively richer countries who would still struggle to afford it).

Fact is, reducing cost to make the body of the instrument has already been done; this plastic violin won't bring anything to the masses, even if you can print it at home. And 3rd world countries lack 3D printers.

Finally, plastic is an awful material; wood already reacts poorly to changes in temperature and humidity. While humidity is not a problem for plastic, temperature is a HUUUUGE problem for it. That violin, experiences about 30kg (about 300N) to 35kg (~350N) (60lbs to 70lbs) of force on the top and on the neck. Wood like maple, or even plywood can handle that without deforming for hundreds of years. Plastic is much more liquid, and over time, especially in high or low temperatures, will bend; that is due to the nature of the composition of the material; it's made out of petroleum (oil), usually. Even if it's made out of a high strength polymer, it will bend from pressure over time because the molecules in it can slide over each other more easily, unlike something with a rigid, patterned cell structure such as wood.

So, in the long run, a polymer or plastic violin will be more expensive, needing replacement often (idk how often, we need more testing). Unless you want to make it out of really hard plastic, but then the violin will be imperceptibly quiet unless using an amp (and that would make it an electric violin, and amps are expensive, etc.... no, not an option for "the masses").

This is not a "violin for the masses" or something that will make classical music more accessible for the 3rd world.

Rather, it is a pretty cool idea and a fun project to work on for the acousticians and engineers that built it. It should get kudos for that. And it has a viola sound on the bottom registers, which is interesting, and probably has to do with the distribution and density of the wood; it's a nerd's fun project, not a cure-all. I wish it was.

January 4, 2016 at 11:15 PM · Mark, I love how you dissected the matter. :)

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Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

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Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine