National award spurs exciting
developments for innovative polymer guitar
Eddie Norman, a senior lecturer in
the Department of Design and Technology, has received a prestigious NESTA
(National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) Invention and
Innovation award of £50,000 to develop a fashionable, affordable
and high quality plastic (polymer) acoustic guitar.
The NESTA funding will enable Eddie
to take forward the innovative project he began in 1995 in collaboration
with Dr Owain Pedgley, a former PhD student. Eddie and Owain, now an R&D
Industrial Designer based at the University of Sheffield, with specialist
technical expertise relating to guitar design, have worked closely with
the internationally-renowned guitar maker, Rob Armstrong, who is an advocate
for the polymer guitar and provides on-going consultancy support. Since
1995, the project has undergone many exciting developments, including
the registration of the polymer guitars design and the granting
of an international patent for the soundboard.
Eddies interest in the
development of a low cost, radically designed, student friendly
guitar was triggered when he was looking for a guitar for his daughter.
He found that learner instruments were quite expensive (retailing
from £70 upwards), traditionally styled, offered dubious sound
quality and often used rare tropical hardwoods. Eddies own
experience had taught him that learners need a quality instrument
that is easy to play (fret). This spurred him to set up a research
project, which Owain Pedgley completed for his PhD and Rob Armstrong
supported, to find a completely new design and method of producing
guitars. The research identified an innovative method using a relatively
low cost polymer, which has since been granted a patent.
Rob Armstrong guitar
The new instrument will be affordable
and distinctive enough to grab the imagination of potential musicians
who might never have considered picking up a guitar. If mass-produced
it could have a retail price of less than £70. In addition,
the underlying polymer technology can be applied to other stringed
musical instruments including violins and drums. The eventual aim
is to lay the foundations for a new generation of radically designed,
polymer instruments that could change the traditional image of acoustic
instruments and result in a new industry.
Eddies team has so far
produced two prototypes that were considered by the market as
being very promising and to have considerable
potential. The well-known folk guitarist Gordon Giltrap
has endorsed the guitar after recording a composition using the
prototype. However, the relatively high investment cost for transforming
the conceptual prototypes into a commercial product has prevented
the project reaching a stage of licensing to an existing guitar
/ musical instrument manufacturer.
Pattern for manufactured
No other competitor technologies
or instruments offer such an exciting combination of low cost, good
sound, good playability and high desirability. Eddie and his team
will use the NESTA award over the next 18 months to ready the guitar
for the marketplace. They will co-ordinate the manufacture of pre-production
prototypes, commission market research, evaluate the use of the
instruments by children and develop a business plan. Gordon Giltrap
will contribute to a CD showcasing the instrument and will also
perform at a launch concert.
representation of manufactured prototype
NESTA has chosen to support this project
because it draws together traditional instrument making techniques, innovative
materials and modern manufacturing processes, bringing the opportunity
to play a high quality musical instrument to the majority of people.
For further information
Anna Seddon, Marketing, External Relations, Loughborough University,
Tel: 01509 223445, Email: A.J.Seddon@lboro.ac.uk
Note to editors
1. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching
and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement.
Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place
Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities, and industry highlights
Loughborough in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 30% of the
University's income is for research. The University has been awarded three
Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive
companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing
countries; and for pioneering research in optical engineering.