Pneumatic Air Guitar rocks the trade show circuit

Clippard’s guitar-playing machine melds fluid power components, an ipad and a six-string to belt out its 16 song repertoire.

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by Design Engineering Staff

Showing off the speed, repeatability and power density of pneumatic systems in a way that captures the imaginations of weary tradeshow attendees can be a challenge. However, Business Development Manager Rob Clippard and a team of inventive engineers at Clippard Instrument Laboratory, Inc. have combined their interests in music and fluid power to create one attention-grabbing, out-of-the-box pneumatic application.

They’re creation is the Clippard Air Guitar, a pneumatically automated, guitar-playing machine that incorporates 62 cylinders, 58 valves and an iPad as the controller. More than 30 cylinders, along the neck of the six-string guitar, depress the strings on the fret board while another cylinder mounted horizontally at the bottom of the soundboard drives a pick to strum the chords. For the melody, six cylinders across the sound hole pluck individual strings. Additionally, the light “clack” of certain cylinders provide percussive accompaniment.

In total, Clippard says the Air Guitar took about a month and a half of nights and weekends to prototype and build. “I have a new found respect for the human hand,” he says. “The biggest challenge came when we started prototyping. When you play guitar, the pressure you put on or take off the strings varies dramatically depending on what you want to do next. When controlling basic components with very high speeds and variable pressures, it’s amazing how much complexity goes into playing a single note in the way the human hand does without thinking.”

To date, the Clippard Air Guitar has a repertoire of 16 songs. Similar to the rolls of punched paper of a player piano, the musical machine uses midi song files that digitally designate whether a particular note is played at any given moment. According to Clippard, the iPad functions as a time-based PLC, outputting the binary song files through a midi soundboard that interprets the on/off of the digital signal to control the relays of the individual pneumatic cylinders.

The Air Guitar made its first appearance last year at PackEx in Las Vegas but is currently on its way to the Analytica trade show in Munich, Germany. Clippard says it will most likely make its next North American appearance in May at the Medical Design and Manufacturing East show in Philadelphia.

For those interested in re-creating Clippard’s musical machine, the company has posted a video and a component list on its website.
http://clippard.com/guitar/