Historic E-guitar: Idea Pickup AMEfication
A first design is finished, a complete explanation of the targeted functionality is included, and the targeted printer technology has been provided. This AME design also provides a model which is proven to fulfill the targeted functionality. Furthermore, the AME structure has been printed and validated by measurements. A complete set of the measurement setup and results is provided.
In the final episode of the Historic E-Guitar series, we continue our exploration of pickup amplification in electric guitars. Get ready to discover the remarkable technological advancements and groundbreaking innovations that have played a vital role in electric guitar music as we know it today.
Evaluating AME Technology for E-Guitar Pickups
Does it make sense to select AME technology for such an issue? - some counterarguments
- Pickups for E-guitars have been widely used and established for decades, and they generally provide satisfactory sound.
- There are various styles of pickups available, including single coil and different types of humbuckers.
- Selecting a suitable pickup component from the market should be relatively easy, with a plug-and-play approach.
3D-Printed Electronics for Tailored E-Guitar Pickups
Conventional and standard pickup form factors simply don't fit within the limited space of the old E-guitar body. Despite extensive research to find the best fitting pickups, even ceramic humbuckers in single coil form factors proved incompatible. However, the remarkable potential for individualization offered by 3D-printed electronics opens up new possibilities to design custom functional pickups that perfectly fit the accessible space of the E-guitar body.
Goals for the Modernization of the Historic E-guitar
- Before going into design activities some goals for the "Historic E-guitar" project have to be defined.
- One part of the modernization will be the personal decision to have a humbucker design with sound and noise reasons.
- Single coil pickups bring some higher noise level and higher coupling effects than humbucker pickup's
Goal: Designing a Fully Functional AME Humbucker
Take A Closer Look At The Original Pickups
The original pickups of the "Hopf"-branded E-guitar from the 1950s/60s are manually wound single coil types with a reduced number of coil windings by today's standards.
We have identified at least one damaged head pickup with a resistance of only 50 Ohms. The other working pickup shows a resistance of 300 Ohms, which is relatively low compared to modern single-coil pickups available in the market with resistances in the kilOhm range.
Selecting The Best 3D-Printed Humbucker Design
When researching humbucker pickups in the market, you will come across a wide range of designs and methods to generate an electrical signal. The diverse selection of functional designs offers great potential for 3D-printed implementation.
Note: For more information on "How to build a Humbucker," please refer to the following links:
Sourcing Conventional Humbucker
As part of our efforts to validate the benefits of AMEfication, we have acquired some carefully selected humbucker pickups that best match our requirements for the head and bridge positions.
Use Case Lessons Learned
- Conventional humbuckers don't fit in the old E-guitar body.
- Decided to proceed with AMEfication.
AMEfication Potential And Perspectives
After acknowledging the usefulness of AME technology for this specific use case, it becomes easier to explore the potential improvements and advantages it offers.
- Realizing pickups in different form factors
- With AME, individualized pickguard electronics can be implemented, providing benefits like better shielding and improved functionality.
- Inspired by Gibson's "quick connect" concept, AME opens up possibilities for innovative and efficient electronic connections.
- Through the application of AME technology, there is the exciting prospect of discovering novel combinations and possibilities.
Building the "Single Coil" Foundation
Innovative Integration: The Unique "Building Block" Incorporating
- Holes for Magnetic Cylinders
- 3D-printed Coils with Custom Wiring
- Tailored Formfactor for the Pickup
Check Out the 3D Design Video of AME Humbucker Element
Initial 3D Design of AME-Humbucker Element
Potential AME Humbucker Design
With the availability of a 3D-printer system for additively manufactured electronics, we have opted to use the DragonFly IV MultiJet-System by Nano Dimension to bring our first Pickup element to life.
To gain comprehensive insights into this project's process, we highly recommend reading about the printing journey right from the beginning.
Optimizing Print Time: 4 Elements, 1 Tray
The intricate 3D design with free-shaped coils inside impacts the printing time, and we are continuously optimizing the process to reduce the time consumption.
Print Job - 50% Complete
At this stage, the print job was at 50% readiness, and we were actively working on constructing the coil structure block, which was still in progress.
Print Job - 100% Complete
At this stage, the print job reached 100% completion, resulting in four fully finished AME structures.
Microscope Close Up View
Microscope inspection was conducted to visually examine the printed structures and ensure the quality of the final output.
Decoding 3D-Printed Pickups
When comparing the first printed pickup building block, which forms just a part of a complete humbucker, to a conventional design, the disparities between the two become evident.
First Test Assembly: Installing Humbucker Pickup
To create a functional humbucker from the realized coil building blocks, several integration steps are required:
- Connectorizing the conductive pads of the pickup coil building blocks using thin cabling.
- Implementing plugs on pinheads to provide high flexibility for pickup circuit optimization in the future.
- Realizing an assembly structure for the pickup coils and the necessary magnetic elements.
- Utilizing tiny neodymium permanent magnets to achieve an effective induction effect.
- Taking advantage of the option to implement the pickup coil building block on both the top and bottom sides of the mounting structure to achieve humbucker behavior.
Testing the Assembly of the Humbucker
For the first time, we bring the 3D-printed Test Assembly in contact with the old "Hopf" branded E-guitar to conduct initial functionality checks and optimizations. The goal is to obtain an electric usable audio signal from the Pickup.
As the first step, we will check the signal from each single coil building block separately, making use of the installed permanent magnets of the Test Assembly.
The plan involves the following steps:
- Install Single Coil A_TOP and Single Coil A_BOTTOM.
- Install Single Coil B_TOP and Single Coil B_BOTTOM.
- Place the coils in between the pickguard with the magnets.
This arrangement is designed to achieve the desired pickup behavior and functionality.
Integration Check: "Hopf" E-Guitar
The printed pickup structures align well with our expected concept and desired aesthetics, providing a motivating glimpse of how the E-guitar could potentially look.
Functional Verification Check
We went through multiple iterations to validate the proof of concept, involving the following checks:
- Single Coil Check: Seperate check of all 4 pickup single coils elements with sound recording.
- 3D-hAMbuckEr Check: Seperate check of 2 serial interconnected pickup single coils elements to work as a humbucker with sound recording.
- Double 3D-hAMbucker Check: Full TestAssembly in operation, check of serial connected 3D-hAMbuckErs, check of parallel connected 3D-hAMbuckErs.
Testing the sound
The checks were conducted with sound recording, capturing both clean sound and sound effects produced by the implemented guitar amplifier. You are invited to listen to the sound files to perceive the variations. We chose a simple installation testing equipment setup using:
- GarageBand app for iPhone
- IK Multimedia iRig HD-2
Soundcheck: From Single Coils to Double 3D Humbucker
Simplified Test Configuration for Functional Checks
Pickup Soundcheck 4 Single Coils
Pickup Soundcheck: Two 3D Humbucker
Pickup Soundcheck: Double 3D Humbucker (Serial & Parallel)
Optimizing Design for Second Print Job
We've made improvements to the electrical contact pads on the Pickup Single Coil building blocks to facilitate smoother integration in the future. Take a glimpse into the realization iterations within the Nano Dimension DragonFly IV MultiJet System, beginning with a snapshot at 1% readiness of the print job.
Print Job at 24% Completion
This represents the current status of the print job, indicating a completion rate of 24% for all 6 Single Coil Pickup elements.
Print Job at 39 % Completion
The print job is still in progress, currently at 39% completion, for 6 Single Coil Pickup elements.
Print Job 99 % Completion
The progress before the completion of the print job, with 99% of the process achieved for all 6 Single Coil Pickup elements.
DragonFly IV Printer System in Action
Multimaterial Slice Animation for 6 Single Coil Pickup Blocks
Ready-to-Implement Two Designs for E-Guitar Pickups
Both head and bridge positions require pickups to fulfill the expectations of the 'Hopf' E-guitar. Our current objective is to create a Single Coil format Hamebucker for the head position and a double Hamebucker for the bridge position.
This is a printed Single Coil hamebucker designed for the head position of the E-guitar.
The Major Building Block
The Single Coil Pickup element is achieved through 3D-printed electronics.
These are two hamebuckers arranged in parallel, designed in a printed form factor for the bridge position of the E-guitar.
Idea Pickguard AMEfication
In terms of guitar pickguard preparations, traditional manual wiring for guitar electronics is common, requiring effective component mounting and grounding. A notable advantage of AME is the integration of 3D-printed shielded coaxial lines customized for audio signals, making component assembly and mounting simpler.
Modernized 'Hopf' E-Guitar: Sound Approval
As mentioned in our previous article, Idea Pickguard AMEfication, when paired with a self-installed pickguard in the Les Paul/Gibson style, a three-way selection becomes available for the incorporated pickups, determining the tonal quality. We suggest watching the video below to listen to the sound.
For those intrigued by the sound files, they are available here:
Choosing the 3-Way Pickup Toggle Switch
Further optimization by AME
You might have observed that the pickup circuitry was previously assembled manually using cables and pinheads, which was beneficial but is no longer necessary.
We've chosen to integrate the circuitry into a 3D-printed motherboard for improved assembly of the single coil element building blocks, enabling us to achieve the definitive and completed form of a Double-Bucker.
Introducing the "Double-Bucker" by J.A.M.E.S
Now also available in the traditional hamebucker form factor, this innovation is ready for implementation and playing with your guitar, offering even more potential for personalization and customized style if desired!
Back to the main article
The exhibition presents an exemplification of how AME technology has the capability to fulfill distinctive design and shape necessities, ultimately facilitating the process of converting current structures into electric ones.