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Panic! At The Disco drummer pioneers 3D printed snare drum

Dan Pawlovich took the 3D printed drum on the band’s last world tour

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When Sandvik brought out a smash-proof titanium 3D printed guitar, we’d thought we’d seen it all. But that’s part of the beauty of a versatile technology like 3D printing: there’s always room to be topped. Recently, Panic! At The Disco drummer Dan Pawlovich teamed up with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to redesign and 3D print a new snare drum that can’t be beat.

If you attended one of Panic! At The Disco’s recent concerts, you’re likely to have heard (probably not seen) a 3D printed drum. The snare, whose 3D printed body stands out among more traditional drum kits, was optimized using additive manufacturing to create a simpler, cleaner sound.

Traditionally, drums are made up of a wooden or metal shell with metal rims and fasteners that attach the drum head to the shell. Each component of the drum affects the sound (in Pawlovich’s opinion, not always for the better). That is, by itself, the drum shell produces a clear note which loses some precision when metal parts are attached to it. By designing a drum shell with the metal fasteners and lugs integrated directly, the Panic! At The Disco drummer believed a purer sound could be achieved.

Upon learning about the capabilities of 3D printing (and selective laser sintering, specifically) Pawlovich quickly realized that 3D printing would be the best way forward.

Hitting the right note

When redesigning the snare drum, Pawlovich had a few things to take into consideration. For instance, one of the drummer’s primary goals was to ensure the durability and longevity of the drum. To address this, the shell had to be compatible with traditional tension rods, rims and drum heads, all of which could be replaced when worn. Working with a designer, the Panic! At The Disco bandmate integrated a cavity into the drum’s shell that could fit around hexagonal inserts for anchoring tension rods. Once this element of the design was in place, the rest of the shell’s structure came together easily.

A first 3D printed prototype was ordered from a service bureau, but due to a printing error, the musical results were not ideal. It was at this point that Pawlovich got in touch with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, the professional service bureau arm of Stratasys.

‘High Hopes’

Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and Pawlovich worked closely together to ensure that the key design goals of the drum were met. A prototype was 3D printed on an SLS system using Nylon 12GF, a UV- and weather-resistant material that can withstand shock, and a dyeing post-process called ColorTek.

The ambitious drum project, which had been in the works for year, was mostly kept a secret from Pawlovich’s bandmates. That is, until the prototype was delivered to the band’s hotel and Panic!’s lead guitarist opened it by mistake. Unsurprisingly, the band was enthusiastic about the new drum design and encouraged Pawlovich to patent the design.

“If our guitar player hadn’t opened that box, I don’t think this would’ve happened,” said Pawlovich. “I’m so lucky to be a part of this team. Not just the band, Panic! At The Disco, but the team around it. I cannot be any luckier to have these people around me who are so smart, forward-thinking, knowledgeable and supportive.”

Panic! at the Disco 3D printed snare drum

Spencer Jones, the Front of House engineer for the band, said of the drum: “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.”

Going on tour

Panic! at the Disco 3D printed snare drum

Fortunately, Pawlovich received confirmation that his patent was pending, which meant he could take the 3D printed drum on tour along with his more traditional Ludwig and a Noble & Cooley SS Classic Maple.

“I was up against two heavy-weights of snare drums,” he said. “At the first show rehearsal, I set up my 3D printed snare, and immediately started getting compliments. Our sound engineer and techs couldn’t see what snare I was playing from their places off stage. They just said how good it sounded.”

Following the positive feedback, Pawlovich was eager to use the 3D printed snare on Panic! At The Disco’s world tour. Over the course of a year and half, the 3D printed drum held up, traveling from cold climates to hot temperatures. According to the drummer, the prototype drum featured in every single show of the tour.

Design updates

While on tour, Pawlovich also came up with design modifications for a second drum, a 5.5 inch deep snare. The shallower depth of the drum required some clever design changes, which Pawlovich and his designer eventually mastered. The new drum, which has a shallower depth and wider diameter has an even better sound that the red prototype. This version was dyed black and is comparable in sound to a traditional wood drum.

In another test, Stratasys Direct suggested printing the shell using FDM technology and ABS and Nylon 12CF. Each version had a distinctive sound—a fact which has Pawlovich excited about experimenting with new materials.

“I have three drums, all the same dimensions across the board, but made with two different 3D print methods and three different materials,” he said. “They sound like completely different categories of drums.”

Going forward, Pawlovich hopes to introduce his 3D printed drum design to established drum companies. The drummer believes it could create new opportunities for drumming and music more broadly.

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