The Elements of Innovation Discovered

Sandvik prints smash-proof metal guitar

Rock legend Yngwie Malmsteen rips chords, smashes amps Metal Tech News – January 27, 2021

While it may not be new news it is still awesome, Sandvik AB of Sweden, machined and 3D printed the world's first all-metal smash-proof guitar, and had Yngwie Malmsteen do what heavy metal rock guitar legends do – shred power chords and smash amps.

In 2019, the advanced metals and specialty alloys division of Sweden-based Sandvik AB had the idea to design and 3D print an indestructible guitar and who better to attempt the destruction than Swedish rock legend Malmsteen, who personally helped in designing the guitar along with the team at Sandvik.

Kicking off the process of where to even begin designing a smash-proof guitar Henrik Loikkanen, the machining process developer at Sandvik Coromant, whom idolized Malmsteen in his youth, turned to YouTube to see all the ways in which a guitar could be destroyed.

Right away, the team determined the guitar had to be machined as precisely as possible, so the team met with Tomas Forsman, a research and development specialist at Sandvik, who realized quickly that the guitar needed a special structure that was strong, lightweight and stiff.

He proposed the isotropic lightweight structure (ILS), which is considered the strongest design structure for a given weight ever invented.

Forsman also knew exactly which material the ILS should be made from and right away focused on hyper-duplex steel, a grade only Sandvik can produce, hoping to sandwich the hyper-duplex ILS between the guitar's neck and fretboard.

Traditionally, the pieces on a guitar that comprise the neck and fretboard are particularly vulnerable to distortion or warping so with a design plan in mind, and a material to make it from, the team utilized advanced software to simulate milling digitally before the first cut was ever made.

This enabled the correct choice of tools, which saved manufacturing time and ensured efficient processing.

While the logistics were being worked out regarding the top of the guitar, another challenge Sandvik faced was how to manufacture the bottom, which is ordinarily a complex design to allow resonant sound or electronic circuitry in acoustic or electric guitars, respectively.

Thus, relying on its world-leading expertise in metal powders and additive manufacturing, the team looked at 3D printing to produce the body, using highly accurate lasers to trace a design in beds of metal powder which fuses the layers of metal together.

The layers, each thinner than a human hair, was then slowly constructed into the body of the guitar.

Selecting the right metal powder is always a vital consideration for additive manufacturing, as the quality and properties of the powder strongly influence the end-product. Simply put, there are three major aspects considered when choosing the most appropriate powder: raw material, particle size and morphology.

Immediately Sandvik knew they wanted to use titanium powder for the body of the guitar, as is it both lightweight and strong. Being one of the strongest and most durable metals on the planet, this makes it ideal in many industrial applications, such as aviation where the use of it in landing gear and compressor fans has drastically improved thrust to weight ratios.

Powder bed fusion lasering was selected as the printing technology for the body of the smash-proof guitar, as it is an ideal method for designs of very complex geometries. Sandvik was confident in its expertise and the refinement of its specialty metal powders to attempt an ILS designed full-metal guitar so the painstaking process of hair-by-hair titanium began.

Back in the shop for the neck and fretboard, the team at Sandvik was running into problems, as an issue with welding long, thin components together can cause torsion, something that could not be afforded in an instrument requiring precision like a guitar.

Further analysis and testing allowed the team to fine-tune the welding process until the ILS could successfully be integrated.

Throughout the project, Sandvik gathered experts from across the company to demonstrate how they could use sustainable, cutting-edge techniques to make something that is both highly precise and incredibly durable and with further input from Malmsteen, they accomplished just that.

When the guitar was finally finished, Sandvik gave it to the Swedish rock legend to play at a club in Florida, after ripping through several riffs, he began swinging the guitar around, at everything. He smashed it against amps, he smashed it on the stage, he smashed it on everything in sight. Finding he could not destroy the guitar, he continued to play as if no damage had been done in the first place.

Most of the contents on the stage did not survive the heavy metal onslaught, or as Malmsteen puts it, "To break it is impossible but you can break other things with it."


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