3D printing seems to be everywhere at the moment, but nobody actually seems to want to buy anything it makes. Well, until now that is.
Custom earbuds are nothing new to the music market, usually costing a few hundred dollars and 4-6 weeks for a personalized fit… So most of us just stick to normal ones from Amazon. But that may be set to change. Nikki Kaufman has created ‘Normals’: custom earphones that mark a new era of modern technology, built using an app and 3D printers. The camera screen guides you through the photo-taking process, where you will be asked to take several selfies from front and side angles, each time holding a quarter up to your ear for scale. The data will then be sent to one of the company’s dozen Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D printers, who will print and ship you a pair within 48 hours - for just $199. And if when they arrive they don’t fit right, 'Normal' will make you a brand new set for free! By using a self-serve app and 3D printing to produce the personalised earpieces, Kaufman has managed to massively reduce the price compared to other custom made offerings, which she says are “cumbersome and inaccessible to everyday consumers”.
Every aspect of the earphone has been carefully thought out. The colour options were developed with Pantone to distinctively separate them from the colour options of other products, and can be edited by you on the app. You can select which colour you’d like for the drive housing, plug housing, remote, cord and soft-touch plastic “earform” (the custom made bit that goes in your ear). As well as the replaceable cord (which comes in either black or clear and can be left down or flipped around your ear during exercise), theres also a small laser-engraved carry case which is custom moulded (of course) to fit the shape of your personalised buds.
Ok so its still a bit on the pricey side, but with headphones currently being more of a fashion statement than an actual tool for listening to music, and some people even agreeing to shell out $299 for a pair of Beats, Kaufman hopes that the price won’t hinder her sound revolution. 'Normal' wants its eye-catching and unique design to draw the same attention as the first-edition white Apple earphones did, sparking conversation and style statements. And with their tagline reading “one size fits none” - even your own two earbuds - they’ve definitely hit the unique nail on the head.
Sound-wise, Kaufman wouldn't reveal exactly who is behind the music, but did divulge that her engineers and contractors have worked for big names like Sonos, Harman, Skullcandy, Bose, Shure and Beats, so we can assume the sound probably completes 'Normal's' geekdom trifecta. An antidote to Apple's beats (and boy, are we in need of one), the custom-made eaphones which are built by selfies mark a revolution in both 3D printing and potentially also the music listening industry.
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