Art & Sculpture

3D printing turns heavy metal: rock legend Yngwie Malmsteen fails to break Sandvik’s smash-proof 3D printed guitar

From Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain – the guitar smash is a signature move shared by many rock legends. But what, if anything, does it have to do with additive manufacturing? In an unusual case study, Swedish engineering group Sandvik has identified these destructive rock’n’roll moments as an opportunity to demonstrate its advanced production techniques. As a result, the firm has produced the “world’s first smash-proof 3D printed guitar”.

Featuring a 3D printed titanium body, and a neck supported by Sandvik’s hyper-duplex steel technology, this instrument has a super strength proven to have rock-legends beaten. Putting it to the test, Sandvik challenged acclaimed guitar player and smasher Yngwie Malmsteen to break it (Spoiler alert: even with these mean skills demonstrated below, he couldn’t). 

Yngwie Malmsteen’s futile attempt at smashing the smash-proof 3D printed guitar. GIF via Sandvik.

Indestructible guitar? No fret

Malmsteen, a heavy metal veteran and named as one of the greatest electric guitar players in the world by TIME magazine, has been smashing guitars onstage for over 30 years. In a video from Sandvik however, it appears he has finally met his match. Following a live performance, playing the guitar, Malmsteen was unable to leave even a dent in its case. “This guitar is a beast! Sandvik is obviously on top of their game. They put the work in, they do their hours, I can relate to that,” Malmsteen commented.

“The result is amazing. I gave everything I had, but it was impossible to smash.”

Sandvik employed the skills of renowned guitar designer Andy Holt, of Drewman Guitars, to help design the instrument. Before building the guitar, Sandvik utilized the simulation processes that car makers use to digitally crash-test vehicles. This was done to determine potential impact forces for the guitar, in order to ensure the durability of the instrument.

A complex manufacturing challenge

The body of the guitar was additively manufactured with titanium powder using a Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) machine. This provided the body with a mechanically strong and complex structure, featuring microscopically thin layers of titanium powder fused together using lasers. The volume knobs and tailpiece of the guitar were also created using 3D printing. Sandvik’s metalworking division Sandvik Coromant took charge of manufacturing the neck and fretboard of the guitar, machining it from a single solid block of stainless steel.

“Additive manufacturing allows us to build highly complex designs in small production runs,” said Amelie Norrby, additive manufacturing engineer at Sandvik.

“It lets us create lighter, stronger and more flexible components with internal structures that would be impossible to mill traditionally. And it is more sustainable because you only use the material you need for the component, minimizing waste.” 

Sandvik's smash-proof 3D printed guitar. Image via Sandvik.
Sandvik’s smash-proof 3D printed guitar. Image via Sandvik.

Engineers at Sandvik identified the part of the guitar where the neck joins the body as the major weak point of the instrument that the team would have to overcome in order to implant it with unbreakable properties. To solve this problem, Sandvik milled the neck and body together as one unified piece. In order to further strengthen this point, Sandvik also used a lattice support structure placed between the neck and fretboard. This structure was made from Sandvik’s ‘hyper-duplex’ steel, which offers high levels of corrosion pitting resistance as well as mechanical strength. According to the company, the lattice part is the strongest structure in the world for a given weight.

Klas Forsström, President of Sandvik Machining Solutions, stated, “We don’t make products for consumers, so people don’t realize how far in the forefront our methods are.”

“Creating a smash-proof guitar for a demanding musician like Malmsteen highlights the capabilities we bring to all complex manufacturing challenges.”

A closer angle of Sandvik's smash-proof 3D printed guitar. Image via Sandvik.
A closer angle of Sandvik’s smash-proof 3D printed guitar. Image via Sandvik.

Heavy metal additive investment at Sandvik

In recent years Sandvik has invested heavily in its additive manufacturing capabilities. In 2018, the company allocated $25 million to establish a specialist additive metal powder production plant in Sweden.

Later in the same year, the company also inked a partnership with UK 3D printer OEM Renishaw to expand its additive manufacturing capabilities.

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Featured image shows Sandvik smash testing its 3D printed guitar. GIF via Sandvik.