Canadian Plastics

Plastic Violin Injection Molded for Encore Performance

The famous 17th century violinmaker Antonio Stradivari would probably have considered it unthinkable to fashion an instrument out of anything other than wood. He might have changed his mind, however, ...

February 1, 2007   By Mark Stephen, associate editor



The famous 17th century violinmaker Antonio Stradivari would probably have considered it unthinkable to fashion an instrument out of anything other than wood. He might have changed his mind, however, if presented with any of the Vivo2 line of coloured polycarbonate (PC) electric violins made by Rotherham, U.K.-based designer Ted Brewer.

Brewer, head of Ted Brewer Violins, has been hand-carving his violins out of acrylic block, at the rate of approximately 25 instruments a year, since 1993. Growing market demand, however, recently led him to introduce the new injection molded Vivo2 models.

The move to injection molding allowed Brewer’s company to mass-produce an impact-resistant frame at a competitive price, but also presented difficulties. “One challenge was the size of the tooling for a one-piece violin body,” Brewer explained. “We also had to get the molding perfect, without sink marks or bubbles.”

Along with this quicker manufacturing process, Brewer also decided to go with a new look, and selected GE Plastics’ Lexan Visualfx special effects PC resin for the instrument body. As part of the effort to make the violins visually compelling to today’s musicians and concert goers, GE specialists customized the resin to achieve the three primary colours of the Vivo2 line: clear, violet and crystal blue. To further highlight the colouring, an LED display transforms the violin’s sound into light, illuminating the instrument during performances.

Brewer’s use of plastic in a concert instrument is certainly not new, as advanced polymers are increasingly being selected to replace wood in a variety of musical applications. All-polymer guitars, for example, are being made available (see Canadian Plastics, May 2006), and Yamaha Corporation manufactures an electric “Silent Violin” that incorporates some plastic. “As far as we are aware, though, we are the only manufacturer that makes their [electric violins] almost totally from PC,” Brewer said. “We initially thought there might be some resistance from musicians to using a plastic violin, but we have found that it has been extremely well received.”

Despite Brewer’s success, the use of plastic in musical instruments in general remains far from perfected. “The industry is still working through the process of incorporating plastics,” Les Schatten, a Kitchener, Ont.-based instrument repairer with over 25 years’ experience, said. “The Vivo2 is certainly an interesting idea, and combined with the right type of pickup, the sound should be fine — different, but not worse, than wood. I’d like to try playing one.”

GE Plastics (Pittsfield, Mass.);

www.geplastics.com; 413-448-7110


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