Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Technology challenges the master violinmaker

Most people consider Italian violinmaker Antonio Stradivari the greatest violinmaker of all time. He’s getting some competition from technology. Today, on Engineering Works!.
A team of modern violinmakers and a doctor is using technology the 18th-century luthier never dreamed of to measure and duplicate – almost exactly – violins built by the master.
The doctor, a radiologist, or specialist in medical imaging, also is an amateur violinist. He came up the idea of using computed tomography, or CT, imaging to get exact three-D images of one of the 500 or so Stradivari violins that have survived to today. The CT scan produced more than 1,000 images of the 300-year-old violin.
Then they converted the CT images to computer files that programmed a computer numerically controlled, or CNC, router. The
CNC router is a machine tool that can shape new violin parts to almost exactly the dimensions of the originals. The scans also show the density of the wood in individual parts. This allows modern violin makers to use different woods to match the density of the original. The newly made parts seem to match the originals.
One of the best things about this approach is that the original instruments aren’t disassembled or damaged. The researchers say the imaging is so detailed that it could also be used to identify individual instruments and track repairs to them over the years since Stradivari made them.

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