05-22 smash-proof guitar

[Image above] Engineering group Sandvik used additive manufacturing to help create a smash-proof guitar. But did their guitar hold up during the ultimate rock star test? Credit: Sandvik, YouTube

What is the difference between rock stars and country artists? Country artists create viral videos bemoaning the fact their guitar was broken; rock stars create viral videos of them smashing guitars.

The destruction of guitars is a well-known trope in the rock world (and the destruction of hotel rooms as well). Numerous rock stars have built their career around epically destroying their instruments during live performances, and in many cases far more than just the guitar ends up broken.

But what happens when a rock star who’s built their career on guitar smashing encounters a supposedly “smash-proof” guitar?

That was the situation Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen faced when engineering group Sandvik approached him with an offer. Sandvik engineers were planning to build a fully-functional, unsmashable guitar, and they wanted Malmsteen to test the guitar’s durability.

“We’re confident that no guitar has ever been built this way before,” says Andy Holt, guitar designer at Sandvik, in a video describing the project.

The engineers at Sandvik had quite a task ahead of them. To design their guitar, they needed materials that are high strength, low weight, and capable of being formed in intricate designs. Additionally, they needed to pay special attention to the joint between the guitar’s neck and the body, because that is one place most susceptible to cracking on a guitar.

Additive manufacturing was key to creating the guitar’s body. Credit: Sandvik, YouTube

Sandvik’s first objective was to eliminate the joint between the neck and the body. As explained in a Sandvik article about the project, “the guitar’s neck and fretboard were milled in one machine from solid bars of recycled stainless steel … Both the neck and fretboard extended into a rectangular ‘hub’ that would reach deep into the guitar’s body.”

To firmly attach the neck and fretboard to the guitar’s body, Sandvik engineers welded the parts to an isotropic lightweight structure (ILS). The ILS consists of a patented sandwich pattern made from hyper-duplex steel, and it was placed between the guitar’s neck and fretboard as support.

The last challenge for the Sandvik engineers was designing the guitar’s body. So they turned to a technique they know best—additive manufacturing.

“We chose to print the body of the guitar using additive manufacturing since it makes it possible to produce these kinds of [complex] designs,” a Sandvik engineer says in the project video. They used laser powder bed fusion to build the guitar’s body layer-by-layer out of titanium, with each layer thinner than a human hair.

Finally, the finished guitar was handed over to Malmsteen for the ultimate test, the results of which you can see in the video below. (The guitar was auctioned off following this project, with a final price of $28,500.)

Credit: Sandvik, YouTube

Though rock stars may be unable to smash this guitar, the top comment on the video points out who can.

Credit: Sandvik, YouTube