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CNC Smart - Guitars

CNC Smart - Guitars
  Organic Guitars in Peterborough had an interesting application for the Trend CNC Smart. Now custom guitars are being constructed using modern technology alongside traditional methods. Written by John Tigg - Trend Technical Support


Our CNC team over the years have successfully installed over 250 Smart CNCs in a huge variety of different industries and applications. A number have provided solutions for the manufacturing of complex items such as traditional gun stocks and electric guitars.
One prestigious installation was for Duncan Wales at Organic Guitars who have a very discerning customer base requiring the highest quality in custom electric and bass guitars.

CNC Smart - Guitars
  Each custom guitar is initially designed using highly advanced bespoke software to create a virtual model of the guitar to be made. Measurements can then be adjusted, and texture applied to determine the guitars aesthetics. The software can even predict which areas of the body and neck will come under higher levels of tension.
The software then post processes the drawing and creates the G Code files for the Trend CNC Smart machine, ensuring that every cut into the wood is highly accurate.

With the guitar shown above, the main body was made from Padauk with a book matched layer of Flame Maple on the front face. Four holes are first drilled and counterbored to fix the blank on to the jig on the machine. The back is skimmed using a large two flute straight cutter. Two holes are then bored for the engineers dowels to act as index points to ensure that both sides match up perfectly as the blank is flipped over in the jig. Then the curved front surface is routed to receive the 6mm bookmatched Flame Maple. This is glued and left to dry, and clamped down with a shaped clamping plate.
Once dry the body is returned to the jig for the routing of the outside shape and then the numerous recesses including the control cavity, pick up electronics and the neck aperture. Special long reach solid carbide cutters were designed and supplied to Organic Guitars for this application. The ballnose spiral was used for all outside shaping work and the straight spiral for the recesses.

CNC Smart - Guitars
  The CNC is left for up to 8 hours to complete all the machining operations required. The small wooden ‘tabs’ are left intact to hold the body in place during the cutting process, and are subsequently sawn off when their purpose is served.
The ebony fingerboard is also cut out, radiused and recessed with another program. An ingenious jig tilts the workpiece when the headstock is machined to provide the necessary angle.
Grooves are recessed in the finger board which is glued onto the neck once the truss rod is installed.
CNC Smart - Guitars
  A very small solid carbide spiral cutter is used to machine out the Organic logo to a depth of 0.5mm. This is filled later with gold leaf to give an exquisite effect.
The neck joint is a particularly important part of the construction process, and affects both the structural integrity and natural sustain of any guitar. Construction relies on maximum wood-on-wood contact with little glue required, so when it comes to the neck and body joint, high tolerances are required. However once the neck is pushed in, a ‘feeler gauge’ is used all around the exposed joints to search for gaps - any discrepancies are worked with a chisel. Once things are absolutely perfect, the neck can be properly set with Aliphatic Resin glue.
Finally the whole guitar is hand finished, as although the finish on the CNC is good, the ultimate surface is required before the final product is oiled.

CNC Smart - Guitars
  Advanced Software Design
Blue areas of the picture here are tension-free, moving through the spectrum to red, where the load is at its greatest. The aim is to get reasonably equal colours – and therefore equal tensions – across the length of the fingerboard. All this, without touching a pencil, let alone a piece of wood!

Measurements and contours are entered to create an exact simulation of the guitar, physics are worked out too. Algorithms working inside the software can predict exact tensions across the wood of the guitar, and therefore pre-empt potential weaknesses.

The wonder of technology doesn’t stop there. Using texture mapping, the model can be covered in virtual finishes of the various woods. Adjustments can be made in real-time, meaning easy design alterations and the otherwise impossible benefit of chopping and changing parts and woods without any cost in materials.

     
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