Saturday, September 7, 2013

3D Printed Modular Headphone Design "Slardar Ears"





















I'm a really big fan of modular design, and have long had an idea to combine modular design with common / everyday wearable objects.  Headphones in particular are designed and intended to be fashionable straight from the factory, and consumers can be seen everywhere going about their day-to-day activities wearing earphones, ear-buds, or headphones--listening to their favorite music.  However, people typically own just a single pair of headphones (this makes sense, we only have one set of ears after all), limiting the range of compatibility with an individual's everyday outfit or fashion sense.  A modular (headphone) aesthetic design could open up an infinite range of possibilities toward enhancing one's sense of individuality in this regard.  A different headphone attachment (module) could be worn not only to complement one's appearance, but also to reflect one's state of mind or emotional demeanor, or to act as a outward display of one's taste in entertainment, hobbies, or other (/designer lingo).

This idea doesn't have to be limited to headphones, but could be applied to each and every facet of one's life.  Cars for example, are often seen as a blank canvas to enthusiasts and tuners who attempt to gain a sense of identity by differentiating themselves from other vehicles of the same make and model through aesthetic modifications (paint, light, spoilers, etc.).  

In this way, I feel that 3D printing can more easily facilitate these customizable modular designs.  As a proof of concept, I took a pair of my headphones and designed a set of detachable aesthetic "ear pieces" to be a fun experiment and provide one of my visions of modular design.

Slardar the Slithereen Guard











The source of inspiration for the ear pieces again came from Valve's DOTA 2.  More specifically, from Slardar, a hero or playable character in the game that I feel (among others) has a cool and unique design.  Slardar's fin-like ears are one of the focal points of the character's appearance--I wanted to isolate this element and incorporate the design with my headphones such that I could have my own pair of Slardar's ears--being almost like a mini-cosplay of Slardar.  

CAD/CAM designed















Sent to the printer





















Using a portrait of Slardar taken from the game, I modeled one of Slardar's ears in CAD, which was built as an offshoot of a cylindrical cup designed to fit over each headphone ear piece like a sleeve.  The headphones were precisely measured with digital calipers and the dimensions were translated to the modeled ears as they were being constructed.  The "cups" could have been made a little more "organic" as opposed to being obvious cylinders, however, they were left as is because the design is just a proof of concept as mentioned before.  The parts were then printed on the Form 1, taking about 12 hours for each piece (!) and were cleaned up by washing and removing the support structures.  

Freshly printed















Cleaned up















The printed pieces look pretty amazing and I'm really happy with how they came out.  The fitment with the headphone ear pieces is absolutely perfect as well--snugly tight.  They look really nice as is in a transparent finish, however, I have a plan to make them more like Slardar's ears by giving them a coat of paint.  I hope the idea in my head can be implemented well and do the pieces justice.  Updates to come later.

Finished product




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