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#2304817 - 07/21/14 12:24 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: gynnis]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington
Originally Posted By: gynnis
I think one of the keys to this discussion is "high volume". I really don't think anyone is going to be manufacturing 100,000 pianos of one design type that will warrant all of the design, manufacturing, and quality engineering (never mind staff training) that will make pianos a "manufacturing" art. It will always be a "craft" art.

Aside from the question of design—there are not all that many people around who have actually designed a new piano of any size or type from scratch and then seen it go into production—the costs of creating a new design are not all that great.

If the effort is truly a new design then a rim press will be needed. Depending on the projected sales volume this can be as simple as something kitted up in a rebuilder’s workshop—i.e., I’ve done several in my own shop that are still being used in (albeit limited) production—to complex such as the huge hydraulic presses used by the high-volume manufacturers.

The second major component will be the string frame, or “plate.” Depending on the in-house capabilities the pattern work might be done in house or by an outside patternmaker. If the work is done in-house it is impossible for an outsider to assign a cost to the project. If the work is done by an outside patternmaker the costs can range from less than $10K for a handmade double shrink pattern (i.e., starting with wood and ending up with either a “plastic” or iron pattern) to something in the mid-$20K range for a plastic pattern molded with a CNC machining center. This last having the advantage that ongoing changes and modifications are relatively easy to accomplish.

Pretty much everything else will be relatively simple jigs and patterns usually made in-house and, if the manufacturer is sophisticated enough, tooling for various CNC machining centers.

So, yes, there is an investment involved but it is nowhere close to the that typically envisioned.


Quote:
This will be especially true if wood is the major manufacturing medium. While some headway has been made in converting actions to composite materials, and plate casting is a more exact "science" than it was 50 years ago, we are still a long way from building the sound producing parts of a piano from anything but wood in production quantities. Until Del's composite sound board is proven out in production volume, you are not going to replace a good belly man.

The soundboard assembly is not really that much of a problem. We don’t have to wait for the composites in order to build consistent and stable soundboard assemblies. As I’ve said so often it borders on the monotonous, we already possess the knowledge and experience necessary to build very good, high-performance, reliable and consistent laminated wood soundboard systems.

There are many ways to build wood skeleton systems that are very stable and consistent.

The roadblocks to all of these are not technological. They are wrapped up in nostalgia, tradition, competitive misinformation, fear, lack of vision, lack of imagination, etc.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2304841 - 07/21/14 01:25 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Del Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/03
Posts: 5317
Loc: Olympia, Washington

The two most significant problems I see with all of the “copying a maker’s scale design” that has been going on are the continual degrading of the performance of the copies—a copy is rarely as good as the original—and the accompanying decline in creativity and progress.

As Ed pointed out, “… the configurations of some of the fixtures used to produce components has a great influence on musical character. It is very difficult to reverse engineer a product properly without access to the information contained within the fixtures. The piano itself does not contain that information.” The piano does not contain a lot of information needed to make a piano perform well. Some years ago I was in an Asian factory—name withheld to protect the guilty; let’s just call it the Clone Piano Compay—that claimed to be building the same piano that had been built in North America up into the 1970s. It didn’t take much to see that there were some very serious problems, many of which stemmed from the fact that many small, incremental changes had crept into the old company that were not well documented. The new workers—few, if any, of whom had a working knowledge of the piano as a musical instrument.

In the old NA factory the workers had a long history with these pianos; they understood them and they had a pretty good grasp of what it took to make them work. Over time many of these workers had made small changes to how various operations were done but it is difficult, if not impossible, for a manufacturer of type to create drawings and document every one of these changes. They just get done.

So, when the machinery was all packed up and shipped offshore a substantial amount of the knowhow that it took to build these pianos stayed behind with the workers who were now no longer needed. Of course, much of the piano’s performance potential stayed with them.

My second objection to the wholesale copying that has been going on is that it stifles the development of the product. It is easier for a company with good financing but little, if any, knowledge of the piano to simply buy an existing piano having good brand recognition, shipping it to wherever and reverse engineer the thing. This does not advance the state of the art in any way. Indeed, it almost always lowers the performance standard of the product. I’ve seen copies of Steinway pianos in which even irregular bridge pinning—obviously mistakes made in the original—have been slavishly copied.

None of the Clone Piano Company’s pianos have in any way improved the state of piano performance. To be fair they have often improved the state of manufacturing art; pianos of obsolete design are now being built to standards of precision that are vastly superior to those of 50 years ago. The fact remains that, no matter how well built, obsolete is still obsolete.

Pianos like the various Steinway grands that have been among the most copied were never intended to be built on modern high-speed assembly lines and they do not translate well. I remain convinced that pianos of very high performance can be built on these lines but they will need to be designed to take full advantage of the materials and processes now available.

ddf
_________________________
Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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#2304848 - 07/21/14 01:41 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1343
Someone mentioned the Brodmann 187 vs the Steinway A. I have played many, many model A Steinways (all Hamburgs) and I owned a Brodmann 187.

To look at them side by side it's hard to tell them apart at first glance, and even at first play. The Brodmann is a decent piano in its price range BUT:

The Steinway is far more solid
The Steinway action is far superior - more responsive, more reliable, faster, stronger
The Steinway tone has more to it - you can find more colour in the Steinway, it had better sustain, it projected further, it is more alive
The Steinway plate is of higher quality - the casting is virtually perfect. The Brodmann looked like it had some chunks taken out of it.
The Steinway strings don't snap as often under heavy playing conditions (OK, some do.....)
The Steinway keybed doesn't bounce when rocking out on Rach 3
The Steinway pedal system works more accurately, and doesn't click and creak anything like the Brodmann
The Steinway glues are even superior, as sometimes bits used to fall off the Brodmann and need reglued - usually felts (not just my Brodmann but many others complained of this)
The Steinway key bushings were far more durable.
The Steinway keytops aren't prone to those little cracks showing up a few years down the line (I had lessons on the same model A for many years, and practised on many others in a conservatoire where the pianos are under constant stress).

Generally, the Brodmann is a good piano, it's not up to true professional standards - you wouldn't put it in a teaching room of a music college and expect it to last more than two years really (if that), but in the hands of a good amateur, or as a second piano for a teaching studio, or for any non-pianist pro musician - a singer, a string player, whatever, or a church that needs a good piano that isn't going to be practised on, or even a venue that has some piano recitals but not a full programme, the Brodmann is probably OK.

It looks like a Steinway at first glance, it sounds like a Steinway at first listen, but really, once you get into it, it's not even close to the Steinway despite being an out and out copy.

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#2304863 - 07/21/14 02:06 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Del]
gynnis Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/16/14
Posts: 148
Loc: Florida, Connecticut
Del, this "made for manufacture" approach is true in just about every industry.

When HP decided that they were going to automate printer manufacturing, they went through every assembly step with a fine tooth comb. They also organized the pick-and-place to match the robotics.

They were able to automate the manufacture, but they also radically improved the quality and quantity output of the hand assembled product.
_________________________
Seiler 206, Chickering 145, Estey 2 manual reed organ, Fudge clavichord, Zuckerman single harpsichord, Technics P-30, Roland RD-100.

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#2304880 - 07/21/14 02:40 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
Robert 45 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/18/06
Posts: 1299
Loc: Auckland New Zealand
I would not call a piano "a good piano" that would not be expected to last for more than 2 years in a teaching room of a music college.

Kind regards,

Robert.


Edited by Robert 45 (07/21/14 02:40 PM)

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#2304889 - 07/21/14 02:54 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1343
Robert I said good for the money. The Brodmann cost 8000 in 2007 , the Yamaha c3 was 18000 then, and the Steinway A was 60000. Prices in UK pounds

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#2305120 - 07/21/14 10:46 PM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: joe80]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2340
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
You really think the Brodmann "sounded" like a Steinway? They don't to my ears.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2305148 - 07/22/14 12:17 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: pianoloverus]
joe80 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/09
Posts: 1343
Yeah but read what I said - I mean it is like a photocopy of a Steinway, in the same way that a photocopy of a painting lacks the definition of the original but you can still see what the painting is

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#2305204 - 07/22/14 04:13 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: Ed McMorrow, RPT]
phantomFive Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/11/14
Posts: 1652
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT
You really think the Brodmann "sounded" like a Steinway? They don't to my ears.

I would guess that every piano with a 'singing' treble and a warm tenor with overtones copied Steinway. Maybe some other manufacturer did that before Steinway, I don't know.
_________________________
Poetry is rhythm.

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#2305294 - 07/22/14 11:02 AM Re: Copying a maker's scale design [Re: phantomFive]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2340
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
Chickering had the prototype "modern" piano sound going before Steinway. Their bass tone is often superior, the trebles almost always not- by switching to quartered maple bridges that are crown conformed and getting the bridge heights tall enough, the Chickering trebles can be made excellent.
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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