Ben Matthes Fab Academy


This week the assignment is to answer a series of questions regarding my final project. Briefly looking over the assignment, I’ve answered a lot of these questions in the first couple of weeks. What I will do is move what was previously on that page to the project development page and reference that information here.

What will it do?

My final project is a guitar for people who like making guitars. The idea is that I can tailor the guitar making experience for someone who has access to digital fabrication, or more specifically the tools accessible in a fab lab. This is so that when I release the design open source it can be easily replicable anywhere in the world.

It needs to be similar in the playability to a typical guitar so that the guitar will appeal to the global community of hobbyist luthiers.However the design adn construction should be different enough that it will stand out in the global guitar market.

As part of the mechanical design week I have created a mechanical diagram showing the structural design in more detail, you can find that here.

who's done what beforehand?

I’ve covered a wide range of previous projects and inspirations, both on the market and in academic context, which you can find here . However for this assignment I thought I’d give a more concise list here:

Olaf Diegel - 3D printed guitar:
At the forefront of digital fabricated instruments is Olaf Diegel. Capitalising on all the benefits of a 3d printed design such as aesthetic complexity and colour without traditional finished such as clearcoat or stain, the design also manages to coax out a sound similar to a timber alternative (which I have learnt through my testing is no easy feat).

Amit Zoran - Chameleon Guitar:
This guitar uses a mixture of digital sound enhancement, electric pickup technology with piezometers, and a modular timber core to create a guitar that is versatile digitally, electronically and through the materiality.

Arduino guitar / Electro smash guitar pedal:
These two projects show the power of a micro-controller in music. One project shows how adding a micro-controller can add diffferent functions to performance with that instrument. The other completely opens up the functionality of guitar effect pedals through the user coding the desired effects themselves, with enough experimentation there is no limit to what effects can be made.

What materials and components will be required?

I made the decision early on to only focus on the body of the guitar. I made this decision as the neck is the most technically challenging part of a guitar, with many precise processes needed. It is not worth the money or time to innovate in this area. This can be said of other typical guitar components, the guitar design should be dependant on standardised parts rather than the other way around. The pickups, tuning knobs, switches, bridge and tailpiece, which should all be bought independant of any construction.Doing this allows for the guitar to have different sounds depending on the different components.

In terms of material, the requirements are that it needs to be easy and relatively safe to use (in a fablab) and also to sound good. I have been experimenting with a custom composite material, which you can read about here .

The only other component of this design process is the tooling to create some parts. I have learnt that this is where the most of the time and money will be spent, and as such have tried to avoid making custom tooling where possible. At the moment the only pieces of custom tooling are the press to create the front and back of the guitar, and possibly a guide to bend the sides of the guitar to shape.

Where will they come from?

There are multiple vendors for guitar parts. Getting components from these vendors should not be too difficult.

The rest of the materials and tooling have purposely constructed out of materials easily available to most. The tooling will be make out of plywood and at the moment the composite will be made out of card and linen, materials easily found at any art or fabric shop.

How much will it cost?

Finding the cost might vary significantly depending on how you approach it. For the sake of this exercise I will not factor in the time spent, as the target user is the hobbyist and is unlikely to factor this. It also varies massively depending on what guitar components someone were to use for which I have designated a $500 entry cost. The last variable is that any tooling made could be used to make multiple guitars, offsetting the production cost of that tool. Finally, as I have explored different tooling processes, there are different options that any one person could use.

What parts and systems will be made?

I will be focusing on the construction of the body of this guitar. The parts that need to be made, specifically are:

what processes will be used?

Currently, the processes that are being used are:

What tasks need to be completed?




What questions need to be answered?

What is the schedule?

I will try and get as much of the previous assignments work out of the way before the final two weeks. This will include networking and machine making which are both group assignments. From there I Will try and get into input/ output and interfaces as soon as possible.

I have been doing the composite testing as an ongoing project for about a month now, and I have all the materials I will test before I make a decision on the final material. The only other thing I want to get out of the way before the final two weeks is the side profile tooling, which will include a small amount of time on the cnc mill.

How will it be evaluated?

The guitar will be evaluated on the four design criteria I created at the beginning of the assignment which you can read about here. These are in order:

  1. The guitar must sound good. This is the primary reason why my guitar will appeal to my target market.

  2. The guitar must feel like a traditional guitar. There is a point at which new innovation can go too far, alienating an an already picky target market of hobbyist luthiers.

  3. How the creator can identify with the instrument. Put simply, how the guitar looks to the creator. A level of simple customisation is key here.

  4. How the instrument is fabricated. Is it easy and inexpensive to someone potentially new to digital fabrication and instrument creation?