During my time living in London I discovered publishing houses, I would walk in and ask for new music to perform. My favorite memory from this was when a publishing house employee dropped a massive stack of violin concerto scores in front of me and said "good luck." Here I discovered the composers Ken Hesketh, Simon Holt, Craig Armstrong and Fazil Say but most importantly I found a piece written by American Composer John Adams called The Dharma at Big Sur. It was incredible and I had to perform it. The only problem was that it was written for 6 string electric violin.
The University of Texas, Austin has 3D printers in their fine arts library and I needed a rare violin. The idea was to create a violin specifically for The Dharma at Big Sur. I put together a team to help design the violin, Daniel Goodwin to design and Rebecca Milton to use the basic violin as a canvas in which to push the design process even further.
Our first design gave us a good idea of how to make a violin. Daniel's amazing design ability helped the process move along quickly. Notice the odd coloring, the library had a strong policy on changing filament (the plastic) colors on their printers. We did not place the strings on this model due to the design being too weak to support the pressure.
The six string violin is essentially a plastic instrument so I needed a way to address the sound quality. After exhaustive research I discovered Barbera Transducers. Handmade, this piece of equipment is incredible. I wouldn't have an instrument with such a high quality sound without it.
Our sculpting artist, Rebecca Milton, asked us to gather items we felt might represent The Dharma at Big Sur.
From this collection, we chose a timeworn piece of wood Daniel had discovered while hiking in California. Here you can see us 3D scanning the object. After it finished scanning we fit the object to the 3D design of our violin, printed it, and will soon be casting it in porcelain. The final product will then be attached to the final instrument.
Our second design has some significant changes. Interestingly, our first design melted from being left in a car. Additionally, the plastic used in the print bends over time due to the pressure added by 6 strings. The second design addressed both of these problems and we managed to convince the library to allow us to print in one color. The only available color was orange.
We decided to place the strings backwards on the violin. The tuners are on the other end. Notice the thickness of the F string in comparison to the E. I had to drill a larger hole for the F string due to it's enormous size.
The current model works like a dream and I've been practicing on it. The next model will most likely be the final product for this specific project but the potential for design using 3D printing is incredible. Soon I will be recording the instrument and, finally, I will be performing it live.