In the competitive market place that is electric guitars you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who plays guitar who hasn't heard the names Fender or Gibson. They are both big name American guitar manufacturers who hold a strong footprint on the market share worldwide. But one man based in Auckland, New Zealand believes he has the formula to perhaps not compete for market share on the same scale with those two giants but to at the very least be a point of difference and stand out from the crowd.
Meet Olaf Diegel, Olaf is a University professor of Mechatronics at Massey University and has been delving into the world of 3D printing. This process is essentially taking a 3D computer model of a product then slicing it into very thin pieces. The printing machine then prints and layers each piece one on top of the other until the product is finished. Mr Diegel who also has a passion for music and has played in many rock bands over the years and even once played in a Medieval band came up with an idea to manufacture 3D guitar bodies and start his own business. I first started it mainly to see if it could be done. I have been a user of 3D printing for about 5 years, using it as a prototyping technology to test out ideas. But, in this case I wanted to see if the technology had advanced to the stage of being able to handle the stress of an electric guitar, in which there can be up to around 100 Kg of tension on the strings. The results turned out so great that I saw an immediate opportunity for a little spin-out business.
Mr Diegel began selling his guitars under the company name ODD Guitars which is abbreviated from Olaf Diegel Design in July of this year and although no guitarists of note have begun using his guitars yet he is left in no doubt that it will happen once the brand becomes established in the market place.
According to Mr Diegel you can expect to shell out around US$3500 for his Les Paul style Atom model and around US$3000 for his Spider and Scarab models with top quality hardware on every aspect of the guitar. But he is also quick to point out that customers also have the opportunity to request specific hardware to be used to meet their needs. "Buying a guitar is, indeed, a completely personal experience. And that is why it is so important to involve the customer in the design process. Both with any customisations they might want to the body, from something as simple as the name of their band incorporated into the guitar, to a more extreme 3D laser scan of their face incorporated into the body, and, of course, with the hardware preferences they have to create exactly the sound quality they want".
Developing such a niche market product as Olaf has a lot of challenges were bound to present themselves. The biggest challenge he found was the lack of infrastructure in New Zealand. He was able to manufacture the smaller guitar bodies on the machine available to him but the larger bodies were the challenge. New Zealand didn't have a machine capable of making them so he needed to off shore to get them made. "Luckily, I have been developing a relationship with 3D Systems, an American company that is the world's leading manufacturer of 3D printing systems, and they have been extremely helpful in printing the bodies for me".
Another challenge Olaf has is that because the guitars are so customizable it is difficult to distribute them into conventional music stores. He plans to combat this issue by making some standard models for that particular market. So where does Olaf take ODD Guitars from here? "I hope to see ODD Guitars develop into a quality niche brand name that grows because of the ability to make instruments that are completely customized to each user's needs. In what is already a competitive market, with a lot of well-known brands out there, I believe that it is the use of innovative features and novel ways of using new and upcoming technologies which can give ODD Guitars a competitive advantage".
Bass players can also rejoice, at the time of this article being written Olaf was about to assemble his first bass guitar which has a Bee theme in which the body resembles a honeycomb.