reuse of parts
I designed and built a pair of headphones using the 3d-printer I have at home and the electronic parts of a pair of old headphones.
I had an old pair of Skullcandy TI’s lying around. These headphones are quite pricey but apparently the build is not that great. I discovered this when I managed to break them… at least, a plastic part that is essential for the construction of the product. Buying new headphones felt like a waste; it still worked! It only kept falling off my head, and one of the speakers was dangling on its wires.
Luckily, my timing was perfect. I had a couple of days off and I was inspired by a pretty cool Kickstarter project: Print.plus. Backers of this Kickstarter will receive the electronics for the headphones and the 3D-files to print it. This showed me that printing a product like headphones is quite feasible. All I needed to do is make a 3D headphones model which I could print myself. So, all of a sudden I had a goal for my free time and a good reason to use my 3D-printer.
The first thing I did was take apart my old headphones in order to salvage parts. In order to do this, I had to break most of the plastic housing. Some of the wires also did not make it, because everything was glued together. What I did manage to retrieve and deemed repurposable (see image above):
The rest of the parts I needed to recreate using my 3D-printer. So, armed with a ruler and a caliper, I booted SolidWorks.
The 3D-printer I have at home is a Micro Delta, which is an awesome budget printer. It is however quite small, which is not ideal for this task. Unfortunately, I did not happen to have another 3D-printer lying around my house that was large enough to print the headband in one go. But I was determined to make this work with my humble little printer, so I decided to divide the headband up into five seperately printable small pieces. The pieces are shaped in a way to lock together tightly and are secured into place with screws. This also has the added benefit of making the housing modular; the individual parts could be easily replaced with another color or shape, without having to redo the whole thing.
The next challenge posed by my 3D-printer is that it only prints PLA, a fairly rigid type of plastic. The headphones need to be somewhat flexible. They need to be put on easily, without slipping away or being uncomfortable. Luckily, my old headphones came with a spring in the headband. I decided to reuse that spring and design my new headband around it. The challenge in doing so was taking into account where the embodiment needed to be rigid and where it should allow some movement.
And then of course another problem of my 3D-printer is its accuracy (or lack of it). Therefore it was necessary to make a couple of test prints of some parts. By doing so, I could sort of predict the (in)accuracy of each part to still have them fit nicely.
I enjoyed the process of making the headphones and I am very happy with the end result. It works great and I love the look. I went for quite an archetypical design, which of course was not necessary. Having a 3D-printer allows you to create any shape you can imagine, but for now I focused on just making it all fit together. Thanks to my modular approach I can always decide to change the appearance of the headphones.
Of course, I know it is not perfect. The imperfections in the parts clearly show that the headphones are 3D-printed. Next to that, the size of the headphones is not adjustable. But that does not bother me, because it fits and the sound is awesome.