MATERIALS-INSPIRED INNOVATION FOR ACOUSTIC GUITAR DESIGN


PEDGLEY O. F. , Norman E., Armstrong R.

METU JOURNAL OF THE FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE, vol.26, no.1, pp.157-175, 2009 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 26 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Title of Journal : METU JOURNAL OF THE FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE
  • Page Numbers: pp.157-175

Abstract

This paper presents a case study of research leading to a significant innovation in the acoustic guitar sector (1). The acoustic guitar is a result of centuries of design and development with wood, and has evolved into an archetypal and traditional product with a relatively conservative user base. As with many other product sectors, most acoustic guitars are now mass-produced in China, where low labour costs contribute to an average out-of-factory price of just $20 USID. This paper describes research into a dramatic shift in guitar materials, away from wood fabrication, towards the assembly of industrially moulded thermoplastic components. It is proposed that such a shift in materials can lead to competitive mass-manufacture of acoustic guitars outside of low labour cost countries, whilst invigorating the design of this popular musical instrument. Emphasis is placed on articulating the technical, aesthetic, market, and commercial requirements of a thermoplastic acoustic guitar. The crucial issue of sourcing appropriate forms of advice to aid product design is discussed. Focus is on the guitar soundboard, as the principal sound-generating component of the instrument. Three conclusions are reached, based on the patented soundboard technology that emerged from the research. First, instruments constructed. with foamed polycarbonate soundboards can rival the quality of wood counterparts, opening the way for a possible new industry of polymer musical instruments. Second, foamed polycarbonate soundboards have physical material properties surprisingly different to wood yet give equivalent acoustic performance. And third, innovation in this product sector benefits more from designerly ways of knowing and operating and less from scientific discoveries.