You want a guitar smashed, Yngwie Malmsteen is your man. The Swedish heavy metal legend claims to have broken a hundred in his illustrious nearly four-decade career. That made Malmsteen the perfect choice for fellow Swedish metal giant Sandvik to test out their 3D-printed titanium guitar, which is more akin to a sledgehammer than an axe.
The instrument, like Malmsteen's reputation among metalheads, is nigh invulnerable. And after taking a brutal licking—Malmsteen goes Jack Torrance on a slew of speakers and the stage itself—it still sounds great.
"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 said. "The result is amazing. I gave everything I had, but it was impossible to smash."
Using an additive process called Powder Bed Fusion Laser, Sandvik's team built the titanium body one 50-micron layer at a time. The job took 56 hours. Because the neck and fretboard were milled as one piece from recycled stainless steel, that removed the guitar's weakest point. A long lattice beam, made from Sandvik's hyper-duplex steel, fortifies the piece.
"By using this we have made the strongest and lightest structure ever," says research engineer Tomas Forsman.
Knobs and the tailpieces that anchor the strings were also 3D-printed.
"Additive manufacturing allows us to build highly complex designs in small production runs," says 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."
Based off of the demanding specifications Malmsteen needs to achieve his world-class speed and precision, Sandvik engineers, along with guitar designer Andy Holt, had to create every part of the instrument from scratch.
"Precision was critical," says Henrik Loikkanen, machining process developer at Sandvik Coromant. "Our software is built on years of experience, giving tool and the cutting data recommendations that helped us mill the fretboard down to a challenging thickness of one millimeter in places."
The project was a way to show off how Sandvik's different units can solve the most complex manufacturing jobs.
"We don't make products for consumers, so people don't realize how far in the forefront our methods are," says Klas Forsström, President of Sandvik Machining Solutions. "Creating a smash-proof guitar for a demanding musician like Malmsteen highlights the capabilities we bring to all complex manufacturing challenges."