Light of the Stereo

Light of the Stereo

Friday, May 17, 2013

Strumophile: ODD Guitars

Based out of Auckland, New Zealand, Odd Guitars is the brainchild of Olaf Diegel, a long-standing Design Engineer with a passion for 3D printing and other state of the art manufacturing technologies.
His line of highly personalize and customizable guitars uses the 3D printing technology of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). SLS is a process that can be used to create highly detailed 3D objects by layering nylon powder that is fused to create the desired shape. Due to it;s creation as a single piece, these guitars have extremely intricate details incorporated into them without the hassle of assembly. Featuring an inner wooden core that links the neck to the bridge. With the choice of Maple and Mahogany  and several hardware options that allows the musician the ability to customize the tone and sustain to suit their desired sound.
With a price tag ranging between $3000 to $4000 (US) these guitars are certainly at the higher end and most likely out of the price range of your typical musician. But their mix of unique art and comparable sound makes this modern masterpieces the dream of any guitar lover.       

Olaf Diegel was kind enough to take the time and talk to BLS about his amazing guitars.

BLS: So why did you choose guitars to use the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) technology?

OD: I suppose it came about through my life-long interest in music, and the interest I have developed in additive manufacturing over the past 15 years. I was looking for a fun project, just to see if laser sintering had evolved to the level where it could make a real product that needed to withstand quite a bit of force, form the string tension, and would probably lead a relatively rough life on the road. It just seemed a natural link to use a guitar to test the technology, and that worked so well that it spun out into a little side-business.

BLS: Odd Guitars are known for their customization of both design and hardware. Do you personally, have a favorite configuration?

OD: My personal favorite configuration is a pair of TV Jones Classic pickups, probably because of my liking for rockabilly music, and the slightly more aggressive sound they give. For the neck, I have always liked the feel of maple and, because I find you get the best sustain by keeping the neck wood and the body wood the same, I like a maple inner core to the guitar to join the bridge to the neck. There is such a huge range of excellent hardware out there that it’s hard to have a favorite, but I do like the consistent quality I get form Schaller bridges and tuners.
But, for a customer guitar, it’s pretty much whatever they want, as guitars are so individual. And that’s one of the advantages of 3D printing the bodies in that any changes we need to make are done in the digital world, so cost nothing extra,

BLS: What are some of the benefits form a manufacturers and player standpoint both aesthetically and functionally of the guitars built by the SLS process?

OD: The first, and probably biggest, advantage is definitely aesthetic. The more complex a shape, the more 3D printing loves it. Typically, if I was going to make a conventional looking guitar, then there are more cost-effective ways of making them than through 3D printing.
Another big advantage is the ease with which each instrument can be completely customized to the musician. Form the aesthetics, with their name printed into the back of the guitar, or extra scallops for comfort to being able to easily shift the centre of gravity of the guitar to give it the balance they like. So if they like a neck-heavy guitar like an SG, we can shift more weight to the front to give them that weight distribution.

BLS: With the unique design of your instruments how do they hold up to the abuses of playing and the typical physical stresses face by most guitars?

OD: The bodies are made out of nylon, which is about as tough a plastic as you can get. If the body was made out of solid nylon, it would be virtually unbreakable. Of course, in my designs, I include a lot if incredibly fine features and details in the guitar that would be somewhat more fragile but, as I make sure they are always well inside the guitar they are pretty well protected. I have travelled around the world several times with the guitars, just throwing them in a hard-case into the airplane hold and have not had a problem yet.

BLS: You launched Odd Guitar in 2011, what has been some of the highlights your company has experienced since it’s formation?

OD: Though I started the Odd Guitar project in around October 2011, my first big highlight was the first sales in July 2012. It took me over 8 months to get the designs right and I have nice little cemetery of early prototypes at home. But then sales took off and I was selling around 2 guitars a month, which was about as much as I could handle by myself,
So the next big breakthrough came when I partnered with 3D Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of 3D printers, in around November of 2012 for them to take over the manufacture and sales of the guitars through their Cubify network ( ). This will free me up to concentrate on the design of new models and some innovative new features. At this stage, I am still doing assembly of the guitars, but 3D Systems are training up to take over that side of things, which will give me more time to do the fun stuff.
Another highlight would have been winning a Best in Show award at the NAMM show in Anaheim in February 2013. This was a great recognition of the amazing stuff that 3D printing can achieve.

BLS: Where do you see Odd Guitars in the next 5 years?

OD: I’ll probably keep bringing out around 2 new designs a year. This year we’ve already had the Americana and, in a few weeks, I should have the first prototype of my new Steampunk guitar, a Telecaster inspired guitar full of moving gears and pistons.
But the big thing will be trying to develop Odd Guitars into a recognized brand for high-quality custom instruments

 BLS: Are there any artists currently playing Odd Guitars?

OD: The guitars have been played by a few well-known artists including several who used them in live shows at NAMM. These included the guys from great White, and the guys from Boston. They have also been played by Steve Stevens, the guitarist for Billy Idol, and I recently did a 5 string bass for Kenny Lee Lewis form the Steve Miller Band.

BLS: You also create bass guitars, are there additional design elements you have to take in account when dealing with the bass tones?

OD: The biggest challenge with a bass is the added tension of the bass strings and keeping everything rigid enough to not affect the basses sustain. But a nice maple or mahogany inner core takes care of that nicely.

BLS: Currently, the price tag of for one of your instruments runs around $3,000. This puts it out of the price range of the average player. As technology becomes more affordable do you foresee making a more economical model?

OD: It’s a bit of a catch 22… The price is largely driven by the high quality components that make it up. Typically, just a good quality neck and good hardware/pickups/etc. can cost anywhere between $1000 to $1500. Add to that the cost of the body, paint, assembly, etc. and it can add up to an instrument that is expensive to make. So, if we want the instruments to remain ‘high-quality’ then they are unlikely to ever be cheap. When thinking of fully custom instruments, tailor made to the musicians exact specifications, it’s actually not an unreasonable price.
But, technically, as prices of 3D printing technologies come down, there is no reason why we couldn’t make much more economical instruments by using lower cost hardware. But that will be a decision we need to make in terms of whether we are better of remaining a high-quality boutique brand, or a more mass-market brand (or both).

BLS: As a design engineer and professor of mechatronics, you are privy to innovative technologies like SLS. What developing technologies do you feel will be the next to directly affect the musical world?

OD: I think the metal 3D printing technologies have got the potential to make some incredible metal hardware for musical instruments. I also think some of the work going on with 3D printed electronics will also have some interesting musical applications.
But, to me, it’s less about the technologies than about new applications for the technologies. One idea I want to play with this year is for some innovative wind instruments. Because, with 3D printing, you can make shapes that wouldn’t have previously been possible, I want to try making a wind instrument in which I send the air over cavities of different shapes to create unique sounds, and even chords. My first iteration will probably be a flute that can play chords at the same time as the melody.

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