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Professor Designs Portable Electric Guitalele with 3D-Printed Parts for Travel

by Madonna

Lance Rake, a professor of Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, has developed the Electric Guitalele, a travel electric guitar featuring a ukulele body and 3D-printed components, designed to fit in hand luggage. Rake utilized various technologies to create this unique instrument. Initially, he designed it using VR and then refined the design with a parametric solid modeling program. The instrument is composed of two main parts: the body and neck, both machined from a single piece of ash wood, and a 3D-printed top that houses the electronics.

Rake aimed to make the instrument highly portable, allowing musicians to pack it in their carry-on luggage for easy travel. Known for his innovative use of materials in creating custom instruments and bikes, Rake has used materials ranging from woven bamboo to carbon fiber. Although these materials are not present in this Electric Guitalele, its lightweight design is achieved through its ash wood body and 3D-printed parts, showcasing a natural grain and a textured plastic top.

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This Electric Guitalele is not Rake’s first venture into travel instruments. In 2022, he designed a 20-inch headless travel acoustic guitar with a redwood soundboard, which, while fun to play, produced a thin sound. He continued to explore the concept, creating a compact instrument with the scale length of a Tenor Ukulele but with six strings tuned like a guitar.

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In his annual ‘Electric Guitar Workshop’ class, Rake decided to enhance and rebuild the travel guitar ukulele, this time incorporating a pickup to improve the sound quality. The Electric Guitalele is ideal for frequent travelers and guitar players seeking a compact and lightweight instrument. Its six strings are tuned to produce guitar-like sounds, and the ash body ensures it can be taken anywhere.

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Creating the Electric Guitalele wasn’t without challenges. Rake discovered that the ash wood he initially selected was infested by the Emerald ash borer, an insect that bores into wood. However, after inspecting the wood, he determined that the damage did not compromise the instrument’s structural integrity. Instead, the tunnels created by the insects added an organic aesthetic to the natural grain of the ash wood.

To enhance its functionality, Rake included a rechargeable, sandwich-sized mini amplifier in the Electric Guitalele, allowing users to play through headphones or amplify the sound for group settings. This makes the instrument versatile and compact. The Electric Guitalele is the second iteration in Rake’s ongoing series of Travel Guitaleles.

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