Artists can be notoriously reticent to discuss the materials and methods they use to realize their vision, preferring the work speak for itself, but Olaf Diegel is the exception to the rule; he wants you to know exactly how he makes his groundbreaking guitars.
Diegel, a Professor of Mechatronics at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand, makes artfully crafted, 3D printed guitars that open a whole new set of windows through which to view the art of making musical instruments.
"I've been using 3D printing for nearly 20 years now, so I understand the process well enough to use it when it gives me creative advantages," Diegel says. "The fact that it allows me to make extremely complex shapes – shapes I couldn't make any other way – is a feature I use in all my 3D printed work."
His ODD guitars press hard on the limits of 3D printing technologies and applications, and even harder on the strictures of old-school techniques for making musical instruments. Diegel builds the revolutionary bodies of his guitars with Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and then constructs them using existing hardware like pickups, bridges, necks and tuning heads to complete the finished products.
While high end guitar-building has in the past been the bailiwick of luthiers using traditional manufacturing techniques, Diegel builds the bodies of his startling instruments as a single component.
The guitar bodies are constructed in layers of 0.1 mm from materials like Duraform nylon.
Though Diegel is loathe to call himself either a luthier, or for that matter, an artist, he is surely a bit of both.
He said that he considers himself more of an "engineer," and adds that he often struggles with design ideas until "an iteration turns out looking good."
"I'm still slowly climbing the steep learning curve of instrument making," Diegel said. "But I'm now starting to understand what I'm doing."
And he doesn't stop at creating his whimsical and intricate guitars. He also created a 3D printed drum-kit, some wind instruments capable of playing chords and he plans to add a line of robotic based products which take full advantage of 3D printing technology.
You can see his guitars on his website, ODD.org.nz, and check out this instructive video Diegel made to help explain exactly how he assembles his wild guitars below: