Panic! At The Disco drummer takes 3D printed snare on tour

To my 15-year-old self who wrote about this very band for her GCSE English coursework; you will be pleased to learn you finally get to write about Panic! At The Disco for your day job.

During the additive manufacturing whirlwind that was Formnext 2019, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing unveiled how Panic! At The Disco’s drummer Dan Pawlovich enlisted the 3D printing service provider to create a snare drum that would not only increase the longevity of his kit but also, make it sound better.

According to a new case study, after years of tinkering and customising, the drummer saw there was potential to design a drum that could resonate more freely, if only some of its external hardware could be eliminated. Traditionally, drums are manufactured with a wooden or metal shell with metal fasteners and rims that attach the head. Those metal parts can result in the fundamental pitch being lost. To get around this, the key goal was to consolidate the lugs into the drum shell as one piece so that it could still connect to traditional components such as tension rods, rims and drum heads.

Dan started out working with a designer to create a prototype that would connect with shop-bought hex-shaped tension rods. After using an online 3D print service provider for a not-so successful initial prototype, he turned to Stratasys Direct to find a better solution.  

The first prototype was created in Nylon 12GF using laser sintering, following by a ColorTek dyeing process to give it a bright red finish. With similar resonance and mechanical properties to wood, the material was ideal for this project. Moreover, Nylon 12GF can withstand shock without cracking or becoming brittle, and it also expands and contracts with temperature changes, the kind of temperature changes a drum that’s travelling all over the world on tour is likely to have to withstand.

Happy with the outcome and fuelled by positive feedback from the rest of the band, Dan set out to get the design patented. Days before the band’s most recent tour, the patent was confirmed and the 3D printed snare was taken on stage alongside two traditional snares. The band’s engineers and sound technicians, unaware that it was 3D printed, commented on how good it sounded and in a blind sound test, a friend and fellow drummer said the printed version sounded even better than the classic.

The band’s Front of House Engineer, Spencer Jones, said, “Dan’s 3D printed snare is a pleasant surprise to mix! Great snap on the high end and well-rounded on the bottom end, which is what I look for in a snare. There’s very little EQ and processing needed, and the snare holds its tuning, looks sweet, and is tough and durable for the road. All around, it’s an impressive snare drum.”

While on tour, Dan worked on a second iteration, a shorter 5 ½ inch depth snare drum which required the lugs and shell diameter to be redesigned. 3D printed on an LS machine and dyed black, Dan says the drum sounds like a traditional wood drum but with its own unique character and tone. Most recently Stratasys Direct recommended trying out a version with FDM technology with ABS and Nylon to see if the build style and materials would offer different musical characteristics. According to Dan; “They sound like completely different categories of drums.”

With a published patent, Dan hopes other musicians and established drum companies may look to 3D printing to innovate on future drum designs.

Dan said: “Every milestone along the way has purely been the result of learning what’s possible from the design process and materials. A seed has not only have been planted, but it’s clearly taking root. Hopefully soon we’ll get to see others experiment with it even further – especially companies that can better handle projects of this scope and promise and on a much larger scale.”

I wonder if we’ll see Sandvik’s unbreakable 3D printed guitar joining the line-up any time soon?

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