A week ago we found out about Realize, Inc., a company which produces 3D printed ukuleles – in conjunction with Outdoor Ukulele. And while the sound of most 3D printed instruments doesn’t even come close to that of their handcrafted counterparts, the additive manufactured ukulele actually sounded surprisingly good.
The 3D printed ukulele is made of plastic, but you can hardly see that this is an actual prototype of an instrument. This is also contributed to the fact that the instrument has a very clean sound, which is getting closer and closer to the sound of an actual, handcrafted ukulele. Apparently, this has also been the goal of the team, as they wanted to produce a 3D printed ukulele in the exact same scale of a handmade one. Every detail, including the frets and suchlike, were copied from a regular model.
And this is what it sounds like. It doesn’t sound as good as a handmade one does, but you have to admit: they’ve come a long way already.
Interesting, right? That’s what we thought and we therefore got in touch with Realize, Inc.’s president Todd Reese, to find out what his specific goals would be. Does he really think he can compete with something solid and robust as handcrafted instruments? Or is it just an art project, which got a little out of hand?
Todd, how did you come up with the idea to 3D print a ukulele?
TR: “We can print almost anything, and have over the years. Our client brought us the ukulele opportunity.”
What does it require to turn this prototype in a functional type?
TR: “In this case, the right material was very important as well as the ability to build each component as a single piece. Our client’s production material was to be polycarbonate, so we chose Accura 60, which is our most polycarbonate-like material. Our SLA5000 was able to accommodate the geometries without having to cut them.”
Musicians can however be quite picky in what they choose to buy. Don’t you think they will rather go for something handcrafted?
TR: “I play guitar as a hobby. Personally, I would go for handcrafted, which is what makes each one so unique and beautiful. But, as I said before, there will no doubt be a market for 3D printed instruments.”
So do you think 3D printed instruments might one day replace their handmade counterparts?
TR: “Replace? No. I think there will absolutely be a market for them, but nothing beats the beauty of a hand-made instrument, in my opinion.”
What are the biggest advantages of 3D printing instruments, do you think?
TR: “Design. 3D printing versus any traditional manufacturing allows the mind to rethink design because there aren’t as many constraints.”
And when will we be able to buy our own 3D printed ukulele?
TR: “Good question, but I don’t have the answer to that one.”