3D Printed Cello
Maddie Frank originally made this cello entirely with a 3D printer, excluding the strings, tailgut, endpin, and endpin screw.
Frank entered and tied for first place in the Additive Manufacturing Users Group (AMUG) Advanced Finishing Competition (2019).
After the AMUG competition, she had a luthier fit the cello with standard pegs, fine tuners, and a new bridge, in order to make the instrument easier to play.
Model for the 3D Printed Cello
Using a digital scanning arm, Frank took a 3D scan of her cello in order to create an exact digital replica of her own instrument.
Creation of the Cello
It took 156 hours to print the cello on a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) Fortus 400 3D printer. This type of printer uses a thermoplastic filament, which is heated to its melting point and then extruded, layer by layer, to create a three-dimensional object.
A full-size cello was too large to print in one piece. Frank created her cello from about a dozen pieces. In addition, she reinforced the neck with steel so that it could withstand the tension from the strings.
Finishing of the Cello
FDM printers create layer lines in the finished product. In addition, the cello had to be produced in many pieces and in such a way that resulted in seams.
However, Frank filed, sanded, and smoothed, the surfaces of the cello to finish it, making sure none of the original seams remained visible.
After removing any bumps or abnormalities, Frank Bondoed the entire cello. Next she sprayed a two-part automotive primer over the whole instrument to be extra sure that no layer lines would show. She said:
The primer builds to ~2mm, so after applied and sanded, any layer lines that I did miss during the Bondo process would be sufficiently covered.
The final painting and gilding were not necessary for hiding seams. They were purely for aesthetic reasons.
A Heavy Cello
In its final state, the cello weighs approximately 80 lbs (36.29 kg). Frank said:
The cello is so heavy because of the Bondo and steel. The whole cello has a layer of Bondo over it, inside and out. It adds a lot of weight, not to mention the epoxy used to bond the seams and the steel to reinforce the body.
Inspiration for the Color Scheme
Frank was inspired by her friend, artist Timo Meyerring, who specializes in gilding and acrylics. Frank explained:
It was actually Timo that suggested that I gild the cello and paint it purple/blue. At first, I was completely against the idea—but then I fell in love with one of Timo’s masterpieces: A portrait of Jimmy Hendrix. After seeing that painting, I knew we had to do the gold and purple theme.
While she worked with Meyerring in his studio, finishing the cello, she listened
to the great works by not only Jimmy Hendrix, but [also works by] the Doors, Ween, The Grateful Dead, and a slew of obscure groups, like Fat White Family and Deerhoof.
Demonstration of the Cello
Tim and Tony at NAPPA Autobody
Jay and Kyle at the Innovation Accelerator
John at the Student Machine Shop