Although our friends at Teague tipped us off about their Labs' latest project prior to Tad Toulis's unveiling of 13:30 at Maker Faire this past weekend, his presentation was our first time seeing the 3D-printed headphones. It's both a thought experiment and a case study for personal fabrication, challenging the convention of "the current consumer electronics paradigm," which is "all about mass production and distribution." "Using 3D printing technology and consumer-sourceable components, 13:30 creates an equivalent product at an equivalent price, but made on demand—just for you."
And while we've been admiring (and using) the prefab pair they sent us over the weekend—complete with custom packaging—they've also posted the plans on none other than Thingiverse.With 3D printers becoming more accessible we decided to have a think around the concept "life in beta" as a future scenario. What if printed prototypes could become actual products? Meaning, once off the print bed an object could be assembled without any tools and be made functional by readily attainable components. Electronically simple yet functionally complex, headphones seemed like a good fit to stress test the premise.
Our first go resulted in a good-looking functional model created on a professional ABS FDM machine (Dimension 1200ES: print time 13 hours and 30 minutes, hence the name). It worked out well, but the machine we used isn't accessible to the average maker, and two of the critical parts relied heavily on soluble support printing—a non-issue for professional 3D printers, a major issue for desktop 3D printers.
Details include the flexible yet durable strap and semi-articulating cans: although ABS can be finicky at times, the designers at Teague have managed to compensate for the brittleness of the material.
Senior Designer John Mabry elaborates:With that in mind, I started to adapt the 13:30 design to the Maker Bot Replicator last week. The main challenge: How to build to a similar level of quality without soluble support. With a bit of experimentation, I'm pretty sure it can be done so look for some updates on that very soon! In the meantime, I posted the current model(s), component list, and instructions on Thingiverse for you to make your own working headphones right now.
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3D printing really works as a product, if you introduce the aspect of customization. That is the added value over another process. In the case of these headphones, the plastic probably costs more than any other part.
When you consider Shapeways and Ponoko and the like, they make their money on the material and time, and that the cost or time would have been prohibitive in any other manufacturing method.
I've been interested in trying an idea like this for some time. I'd love to do shells for a phone, for instance. Instead of buying a protective cover to hide the case of the phone, you can make customized repeatable parts as the case. How many people buy a shiny new iPhone, with all of its glorious materials and then stick it inside a matte rubberized case that doubles its size?
In any case I love the discussion, idea, and effort. I would love to go into a rant about our modern disposable lifestyle. And these headphones are good platform to talk about cost, price, and value.