Engineering Technology team’s printed circuit board design improves electric guitars

A Purdue team created a flexible, printed circuit board that imitates the conventional wire configurations inside an electric guitar. (Stock photo)

What makes a guitar electric? With a skilled person playing, any performance can be powerful — but for the moment, consider the mechanical aspects of the instrument itself.

Traditional electric guitars have a “pickup,” a magnetic transducer made with miles of copper wire coiled around magnets via a tedious, time-consuming process.

Purdue Polytechnic’s Davin Huston and Mark French, along with Kathryn Smith, a former graduate student in Huston’s lab, have been studying ways to improve the process, making the finished products better for both players and manufacturers. They created a flexible, printed circuit board that imitates the conventional copper wire configurations inside electric guitars.

“We came up with a new approach to the electric guitar pickup, the magnetic transducer that helps create the musical sound,” said Davin Huston, assistant professor of practice in engineering technology. “Our circuit boards can be printed in large quantities and fit inside just about any electric guitar, which simplifies the manufacturing process but keeps the sound quality and reliability.”

With a conventional electric guitar pickup, string vibrations cause the electromagnetic field to oscillate, induce a voltage in the coil, and generate an electric signal. The team’s circuit board works the same way.

“With typical pickups, the wire coils often produce undesired feedback and need to be potted with wax or a polymer,” said French, professor of mechanical engineering technology. “Our circuit board provides an alternative that is easier to produce with manufactured consistency.”

Davin, French and Smith worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology. A U.S. patent has been granted for their innovation.

See the full Purdue Research Foundation story by Chris Adam.

Additional information

People in this Article: