David Perry of OpenFabPDX and the F-F-Fiddle
David Perry plays the violin. An electric violin. An electric violin he designed and created with a 3D printer. Then the White House found out about it.
A classically trained violinist since age 9, David has always wanted to make his own violin, an aspiration which used to require years of study in the craft of luthing. Instead, David applied his background in mechanical engineering and CAD to bring this centuries-old craft into the modern era, spending roughly 80 hours drafting (and improving on failed attempts) to create a 3D-printable electric violin.
The F-F-Fiddle (a play off the 3d printing term "fused filament fabrication" or FFF) is comprised of three 3D printed parts, joined together with two nut and bolt pairs and reinforced with a steel rod. The pickups, tuners, and strings are bought separately and installed.
David has released the F-F-Fiddle files for free online. Now anyone with access to a 3D printer can make their own F-F-Fiddle for only $250 in material cost. David also sells completed fiddles and he was recently commissioned to create one for the grand opening of iMakr's Central Manhattan location.
The F-F-Fiddle was recently featured in Make Magazine, which offers detailed instructions on how to create and assemble one of your own.
“The F-F-Fiddle is a wonderful way to show the 3D design and printing process,” David says. “It was something I have always wanted to make but couldn't before, now this technology makes it possible. I hope it inspires others to create the kinds of things they've always wanted to make.”
David graduated in 2008 with a mechanical engineering degree and worked in the field for a few years. In 2012, after reading the book “Drive,” he become interested open source, and traveled to New York for the Open Hardware Summit. There, he happened upon the city's Makers Faire, where he saw an exhibit on low-cost 3D printers. David wondered how he could combine his interest in open source and intrinsic motivation with this emerging technology.
“I wondered if I could help take 3D printing beyond silly cat and owl figurines,” he says, “to inspire others to take advantage of this technology in a more meaningful, or practical, way.”
David bought his first 3D printer in November 2012 and founded his own business, OpenFabPDX, the following year. OpenFabPDX offers 3D CAD design, 3D printing, pro-typing services, technical assistance and consulting.
“At the moment [the projects] I am working on tend to be very practical, mechanical things,” he says. “What I am really excited about - and hope to pursue more of - are smart, connected devices; 3D printing and open source designs are particularly well suited for that arena.”
He also does birthday parties. Really. For the same price (or less) of hiring a clown, parent can invite David to their child's birthday party, where the kids can learn about 3D printing and design and print their own items. (Core77 did a feature on David and his parties here.)
The birthday parties spring from David's interest in youth and community involvement. 3D printing, he says, is the perfect mix of entertainment, creativity, and technology.
I took a break from our interview to pitch some business ideas to David, some possible partnerships and money-making opportunities... and was surprised when his eyes didn't turn into little dollar signs. He gives me a small smile.
“I created OpenFabPDX as an experiment,” he says. “I'm not a 3D printing service bureau. I am interested in how I can add value to 3D printed projects, and how I can help expand the technology.”
An Invitation to the White House
The founding of OpenFabPDX happened just as the White House was pushing for more young and self employed individuals to get insurance through the Affordable Care Act. David did just that, and tweeted about it using the hashtag “geeks get covered.” The White House media staff noticed his tweet, and reached out for a profile to help their health campaign efforts. David heard the White House was going to host a Maker's Faire, and causally mentioned to his interviewer that he would love to be involved.
Weeks went by and David thought his Oval Office days were over, then he received “a mysterious voicemail” and was invited to present at the first ever White House Maker's Faire in June. He was one of less than thirty exhibitors, and while David didn't get to personally meet the President, he said it was an amazing experience.
“It was so validating for me – to be starting my own business and feeling very uncertain – to be invited to this and listen to the President say how important it is to have creative innovators,” he says.
The Future of 3D Printing
As I blather on about how “cool” 3D printing is and how it will cause a revolution, David tells me this isn't the first time 3D printing has enjoyed the spotlight – 3D printing technology was “the next big thing” back in the 80's.
“That's why you have people who are skeptical about it,” David says, “because last time the hype didn't lead to much, and so they dismiss it as a fad. But last time we didn't have the internet, we didn't have open source, we didn't have the ability to share what we create with people across the world. That's what makes it different now.”
In addition to the huge community of fellow creators now on the web, David adds that 3D printing is becoming more affordable and accessible every year.
“The expectations people have are all over the place – on the one hand, we have a lot of hype causing unrealistic expectations, and on the other we have these innovators quietly creating really amazing things,” David says. “I am excited to be involved in this industry, and to be involved in a way that can encourage new possibilities.”
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