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Making music: UToledo engineering students craft cost-effective violin using 3D printers

The project was a partnership between UToledo students and the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts, resulting in a violin with a material cost of under $70.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The days of making your own instrument may be here soon.

Engineering students at the University of Toledo are pioneering the idea, creating a violin using a 3D printer.

"I never knew that by the end of my college career, I'd be 3D printing a violin," senior Jessica Billick said.

Allison Sugden, Joshua Boulianne and Billick said they wanted something challenging to do for their senior project and something that had never been done before.

"We had to do major redesigns for a couple parts of the violin," Boulianne said, "and there were a couple of challenges with actually getting it together but I'm happy to say I think we did pretty well."

Merwin Siu, artistic head of the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts and second principal violin for the Toledo Symphony, says the collaboration with the engineering program has been music to his ears.

"It's amazing you can take a wooden instrument, a violin that really hasn't changed in design for over 300 years," Siu said, "and then bring it into the 21st century using 3D printing."

Siu stressed cost is a big barrier to many families trying to access instruments with a standard violin running around $400. So he believes this is a gamechanger.

"The design team was able to take the materials cost to something like $68 which is just amazing," Siu said.

"It's also a much cheaper alternative if you're doing prototypes or trying to test something out," student Allison Sugden said.

Siu says the 3D printed violin is very comparable in terms of sound quality and projection to a regular violin. While it won't replace professional products, he believes it will provide an affordable entry point for people.

"We're looking to give as many people a chance as possible to really discover the beauty and joy that making music on these instruments can bring," he said.

Siu says the next step is to work with the students on how to mass produce these instruments so they can outfit schools, clubs and other organizations.


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