Partita shifts focus to face shields during pandemic

A Wisconsin company that 3D prints violins is producing face shields during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partita was founded in 2019 by husband and wife duo April Weir-Hauptman and David Hauptman. Weir-Hauptman brings her business expertise to the table. She earned her master’s in business administration from UW-Madison and has extensive experience in company development and growth. Hauptman provides expertise in 3D printing and illustration, ultimately creating the design for the company’s novel violin.

About 180,000 violins are sold each year in the United States. The violins produced by Partita are less expensive than their handmade wooden counterparts. Traditional violins used by students or ensemble performers can range from $500 to $1,500 or more. Partita sells the company’s violins for $369 each. The parts are also cheaper to produce and replace if damaged.

The lower price of the 3D-printed violins plays a large role in Partita’s aim to make the instrument more affordable and accessible. With this goal in mind, the company has focused on partnering with local schools. The relatively low cost of the 3D-printed violins makes them an inexpensive option for children whose parents can’t afford the high cost or rental prices of traditional violins, according to Weir-Hauptman.

“There have been many studies that show learning a new instrument provides many benefits to the learner, such as increased coordination, better memory, and (offers) a way that one can feel worth,” Weir-Hauptman explained. “We believe that price should not be a roadblock to all kids having at least the opportunity to learn about music and try to play an instrument.”

Due to the pandemic, Partita has temporarily shifted its business focus. The Waunakee-based company is now using its 3D printer to create face shields for local healthcare workers.

“I recruited a team of over 40 printer volunteers and together we created over 2,000 shields in just three weeks,” Weir-Hauptman said. “We know this is a part-time diversion to create these (personal protective equipment), but it was easy for us to do and we wanted to do our part to help out during this time.”

Partita makes around 16 violins of all sizes each week from a plastic polymer that comes in a variety of colors. This not only makes them more durable and weather-resistant than traditional wood violins but also provides an equal, if not better, sound profile, according to Weir-Hauptman. 

As Partita continues to grow, the company plans to focus more on marketing its product as well as building relationships with retailers and music programs. As emphasized by Weir-Hauptman, “Our hope is that we can get more violins into the hands of more kids, and that in doing so, they will find a new hobby, gain confidence, and overall feel good about themselves.”

Partita is one of 28 finalists in the Wisconsin Technology Council’s Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which culminates June 4 at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference, which is being held virtually this year. 

— By Jessica Knackert 

Knackert is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.