For whatever reason, violins are often at the forefront of futuristic design. But no matter how crazy a violin looks, the only thing that really matters is how it sounds. So while the 3Dvarius, the world’s first 3-D printed electric violin, probably isn’t as good as the Stradivarius after which it is named, the fact that something printed from a CAD file could come anywhere close to mimicking its namesake is notable.
Designed with the help of violinist and music artist Laurent Bernadac, the 3Dvarius is a fully playable electric violin designed to emulate the acoustic qualities of the Stradivarius. It doesn’t look much like one, though: without its strings, the 3Dvarius looks more like some sort of translucent, deep-sea creature. But tucked under a trained violinist’s chin, it sounds pretty good, even if it’s more electro jazz funk than classical.
The 3Dvarius was designed to be as lightweight as possible, as well as to feel great in a musician’s hand, and to properly resonate in a violinist’s hand. It also needed to be custom tuned so that it was strong enough so that the strings could be tuned, and held in tension through a performance. That’s something more challenging than it sounds: 3Dvarius went through multiple prototypes before the optimal design that could both withstand the extreme rigors of a violin performance and still be printed out from a CAD file a dollop of polymer at a time.
It’s still not entirely 3-D printed, though. The design requires both standard violin strings and a wooden bridge to work. But the body itself is totally artificial, and opens up the possibility in the future of printing off 3-D reproductions of designer violin bodies, stringing them up, and performing on them, without ever hitting the music shop. And until its creators finish fine tuning the spec, the 3Dvarius will remain a prototype.