Lightning Uke, the first open-source 3D printed electric ukulele

By on September 6, 2016
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A team of designers from Taiwan has created the world’s first open-source 3D printed electric ukulele. Designed for consumer 3D printers, the unusually shaped Lightning Uke comes with a full-size fretboard, regular strings and tuners, and a custom-made amplifier, pick-up, and speaker.

Inspired by a miniature Japanese electric guitar with a built-in amplifier and speaker, the team (Jin Hsieh, Penk Chen, Ruha Cheng, and Joe Dong) decided that a 3D printed ukulele could be made in more-or-less the same way, with the built-in electronics compensating for the lack of resonance provided by the hollow wooden body of a typical ukulele. Furthermore, given that they wouldn’t need a normal sound chamber for their plastic masterpiece, the designers were free to go wild with the design—and go wild they did. Their angular 3D printed Lightning Uke looks incredibly rock’n’roll, and can be 3D printed in any color for extra pizzazz.


As the team told, they made their initial sketches for the 3D printed ukulele on FiftyThree’sPaper software, before prototyping with Autodesk’s 123D Design. When the awesome axe was ready for 3D printing, they used a MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer to create their own model, but ensured that the files could be printed on any consumer 3D printer with a 6”x 6” print bed. The entire build was 3D printed in PLA without support materials, taking a total of around 15.5 hours (body: 9 hours, neck: 4 hours, handle: 2.5 hours) on the Replicator.

Those who can’t wait to get strumming on the 3D printed ukulele have three options: a fully assembled Lightning Uke with circuit board and tuner app ($159), a DIY kit with assembly instructions ($135), or a free-to-download open-source starter kit with 3D printable files and the component list. You can find the design files here on GitHub, and the whole design process is documented here on Instagram.


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