• Additive Manufacturing Blog

    Music in the making
    The 3D printed violin that traveled and changed the world

To show the world what can be achieved with additive manufacturing, EOS created a 3D printed violin in 2011. Having traveled the globe and been played at different venues, it has now been auctioned off for a good cause. Join us in taking a look back at this amazing feat of engineering and what it meant for the profile of 3D printing.
Claudia Jordan
Press Officer
EOS GmbH

When you think of violin-making, you no doubt conjure up images of an elderly man in a waistcoat, hunching over a workbench, painstakingly working pieces of wood to perfect shape. Basically, the quintessential stereotype personified by the legendary Antonio Stradivari. These exquisite instruments are world-renowned and sell for millions of dollars. But can the modern world find innovative new ways to replicate such quality? 

In 2011, EOS decided to take on the challenge of producing a pair of working violins using additive manufacturing processes. Choosing to push the envelope, EOS elected to replicate one of the world-renowned legendary Stradivarius violins. At the time, this was a real breakthrough in demonstrating the capabilities of 3D printing, showing the world what the future might hold. Now, 11 years later, we’re taking a look back at that project to see how it struck a chord with the public and helped bring 3D printing to the forefront of conversation in many areas of manufacturing.

 

At the PEEK of Additive Manufacturing

The EOS violins are made of PEEK (polyetheretherketone), which at the time was a material favored in the aerospace and Formula 1 industries for its malleability and robustness. PEEK is a fine grain plastic powder, which is laser sintered to infuse the powder in a thin outline that perfectly replicates the digital design of whatever object is desired. The powder is used in the additive manufacturing process to create perfect replications of digital 3D designs.

Today, the PEEK material has been superseded by a wider range of more advanced plastics and compounds, each with its own characteristics and properties that make them ideal for different types of production. But in the earlier days of 3D printing, PEEK was favored by many additive manufacturers for its high-performing qualities.

The main body and neck of the violin were all produced in one single piece using the EOS PEEK HP3 powder. Only the strings, fine tuner, and peg box were added afterward by a skilled luthier to make it a fully functional and playable instrument.
 

Making headlines

The EOS 3D printed violin became headline news, even featuring on the cover of The Economist, written about by Wired magazine, and the focal point of a CNN short piece - watch the video here.

This was one of the first big appearances in a business paper for us. It changed a lot for EOS because it really increased public awareness. Other business papers, that weren’t aware of EOS, nor of 3D printing at that time, started contacting us. That was a great moment for us because we’d done something to substantially boost awareness of 3D printing and demonstrate the capabilities of an emerging technology.

After its coverage in the media, the EOS Stradivarius toured the world, including some incredible live performances at the trade fair Euromold 2010 (today Formnext), during the 2010 Wired Conference in the UK and many others across the globe.

Despite not achieving quite Stradivarius levels of exceptional performance, the overall impression of the 3D printed violin was one of pleasant surprise. In the hands of talented musicians, it can produce a quality sound that rivals a “conventional”, mainstream modern violin.

The EOS violin turned a lot of heads around the globe in 2011 as a significant representation of the possibilities that 3D printing has to offer. More than a decade later, those possibilities are becoming a reality, as industry leaders like EOS are continuously striving to exceed expectations to take additive manufacturing to the next level.

I remember a situation when the violin was to be played at the WIRED event in London and one string was cracked, needing to be repaired the day before the event. So I went with the violinist to a classic violin shop in London that normally only deals with wooden, expensive violins. They still repaired it for us, although they might not have taken it seriously in the first place. In order to prove that it can be played and sound good (not quite as nice as a Stradivarius, but better than expected), the violinist played in the shop before we left – I will never forget that moment!

A bid to help Ukraine

In May 2022, EOS joined forces with other movers in the 3D printing industry to fundraise and support Ukrainians affected by the war. The EOS Stradivarius was put up for silent auction at RAPID + TCT 2022 and raised US$ 10,100. The funds raised have been contributed to manufacturing advanced medical and aerospace parts, as well as providing educational workshops to train Ukrainian refugees in 3D printing technologies.

Our goal is to combine innovation with responsible manufacturing And there are so many amazing applications yet to come

Claudia Jordan
Press Officer
EOS GmbH