MechEng on tour

There’s not a lot that can’t be achieved with a 3D printer; parts for cars and planes, heart valves, camera lenses, pizza in space and now, on tour for the first time, custom made guitars.

Klaxons 3D printed guitarThe concept of a 3D printed guitar was first introduced to the University of Sheffield by Mechanical Engineering student Chris Reeve during his final year undergraduate project. Chris has always had an interest in designing guitars and had already handmade a few electric guitars of his own so when he saw the dissertation topic on offer he jumped on the opportunity.

Around about the same time, Sheffield graduate Mahdi Hosseini was thinking how nice it would be to have a custom made guitar... if only he could afford it! Soon enough he was thinking along the same lines as Chris and had the idea of setting up a business dedicated to producing custom made guitars at an affordable cost using the latest in 3D printing technology.

They started researching guitar manufacturing and 3D printing and decided to seek help from 3D printing experts including Professor Neil Hopkinson, a world renowned 3D printing expert based here in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, to provide them with insight in the latest technologies and trends within the 3D printing world. When Mahdi saw Chris’ Sunrise guitar in Neil’s office, he knew he had to speak to Chris too. Neil made the introductions and Chris has since licensed the dissertation guitar design to the company to manufacture and sell, and agreed to offer technical advice when needed.

In the meantime, UK indie rock band Klaxons made a tongue-in-cheek announcement in June that their next tour would be played entirely on 3D printed instruments; a world first. Here opened up an amazing opportunity for Mahdi and his team at Customuse when they offered to print one of a kind lead and bass guitars featuring the band’s insignia for use on the tour.

Klaxons 3D printed guitarWhen contacted again by Mahdi for technical advice, Neil, an electric bass player himself, was only too happy to get on board with the idea, “When Klaxons announced their tour would be 3D printed, they didn’t seem to really believe it could happen, but for guitars at least it’s a very achievable goal. 3D printing is the ideal technology to create personalised instruments of this kind, as it allows you to have an intricate design with a lightweight body while retaining the necessary strength to ensure the guitar will work well.”

Mahdi said “When we set up Customuse just a few months ago, we never imagined two of our guitars would be on the road with a band like Klaxons so soon. But having a guitar made to your individual design isn’t just for rock stars. With 3D printing, amazing designs can be created while the price tag remains realistic.”

The band were delighted after playing the guitars for the first time, Jamie Reynolds, bassist for Klaxons, said he was “absolutely blown away”. Band-mate and guitarist Simon Taylor-Davies compared them to the boundary-pushing guitars of the 80s, remarking that “3D printed [guitars] are about as magical as it gets”.