In this video, learn how a design challenge is solved using a sustainable material in a surprising way—to make a guitar.
- In this movie we're going to talk about how we select materials when we're facing a major challenge. When the challenge is that the materials aren't available, or the resources are now depleting. And so, in this case, in this example, we were looking at making a musical instrument that used tonewoods, and the tonewoods are becoming more scarce. And so we researched some solutions on how we would develop a new musical instrument with a different way of looking at it.
And, so, we discovered that there are some farming industries that are creating these types of tonewoods in more of a sustainable manner, rather than going out and finding them on their own. But we weren't able to take it to the next level of what we wanted to do. And the thing we wanted to do is we found out this design, we wanted this open architecture. Even though it's an electric guitar, we wanted it to be a lot more like an acoustic guitar where it had this open body system inside of it, so it has an active skeleton inside of it.
And, in order for us to do that, instead of making it out of a solid wood piece, we really preferred to make it out of maybe a polymer or something like that. And, at the time, there just wasn't anything that we really wanted to look at that was going to fulfill the solution until we came across the material that was based on a cellulose polymer. And about 10 years ago this came out and it was featured on the cover of Business Week magazine as best design of the year award. And, in it, fast forward to today, we had a client that said, "Well, can we do something that's even more beyond that, "more sustainable, better working, better sounding?" And, so, this client was already taking cellulose fibers.
Cellulose, by the way, is the most abundant or largest organic polymer on the planet. It's the most material that we have in this space that we could use. You'll find it in anything from cotton to trees, most plant life. And so with them, they provide the cellulose fiber. They were putting it into a material like this, and this material, this is polypropylene. And you can see the fiber, you can see the fiber inside of it and it makes it really strong.
When the fibers in there, it's like having something that's like glass-filled polymer and, so, the cellulose fiber gave it a characteristic like it was glass. But we didn't want to use polypropylene, we wanted to use a cellulose based material. We tried to work with the big cellulose companies. It was either going to take too long or cost too much or we just deemed it not practical. So, Archaes found some new suppliers working with our partner in the cellulose fiber area.
And came across Rotuba, in New Jersey, they are compounders. So, a compounder, what they do is they take materials and they change the formulation so thinking about, again, going back to looking at how a chef might use ingredients to make a recipe, that's exactly what we were doing. And we wanted to use the cellulose fiber with the cellulose acetate propionate, and we came up with this formulation. So, Rotuba was able to compound it and plasticized. They then extruded it, which looks like spaghetti and then they pelletize it, and they chop it up into little nuggets and then those little nuggets go into an injection molding machine and that injection molding machine can make an end product.
In this case, this is a test sample. This is actually the actual sample that we did on a trial where we were kind of looking at these formulations, so it became evident that we were able to injection mold it and it's very strong. And though we did what we were set out to do, which was make a fully more sustainable material that was not compromised by strength and performance. And then what we wanted to do was turn it into a practical application. The practical application, in this case, is going back to our history and how we wanted to make it a better sound system.
So we went to back to the formulation, changed the tonewoods a bit. So those tonewoods have a frequency that the reason why a guitar sounds as good as it does is it has a very low frequency. So, what we did is we changed the formula from high frequencies to low frequencies. The way we did it is we made these plaques, and the plaques were consistent sizes and we compared it to a tonewood plaque. We struck it like a percussionist, like a xylophone. You could hear the differences in the high tones and the low tones and when we got to the low tones, we changed the formula a little bit more.
We started getting in the right direction, and we found out that we could actually make the materials superior to the tonewood. We actually brought it down. We actually got a really low tone, which means it's really warm. It has a lot of depth and gave it a lot of character. So when that happened, Rotuba compounded the material for us to use and we sent it to an injection molder. Now this, this was the original Archaes guitar shell. We had, like I said, 10 years prior, and we just used our existing injection molding machine and press, and shot these shells with this new material.
So, this is the actual material and behind me are the actual guitars. And, so, these are the 10 year anniversary special editions that we created. We only made 12 of them. The Archeas guitar is very famous. You'll find it with artists like: The Eagles, Ba House, and The Rolling Stones. And the point I really want to make here is that when you're seeking and you're challenged with a material that you're going to come up with innovations and ideas for your products, we normally live by the guidelines that material companies or material comes in a form of what they call a design guideline, and that design guideline comes with some boundaries.
This is what it's good and bad at. In this case, I challenge you to get outside of that guideline. Push it a little bit further. In this case, we wanted to see just how far cellulose was going to go. And even when companies said it wasn't going to be possible. And it was going to cost millions of dollars or years to do, we'd still continue to keep pushing and we were able to pull this off. And we did this in a really short period of time. It didn't take millions of dollars, it didn't take years. It only took weeks to actually get it to work and took a few months before we actually created all 12 guitars, and now the rest is able to move forward and, hopefully, this makes it into production scale for the rest of the world to use.
For automobiles to medical instruments to anything that can be injection molded, extruded, or even machined. That's how you push material further than anybody says you can.
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