Jun 6, 2014

Image: XinhuaNet

Most of the 3D printed headphones are still proofs of concept, but a startup in China hopes to incorporate the 3D printing technology into consumer-grade earphones with their new design.

A startup in Xi'an, Shaanxi province is planning to launch first production 3D-printed earphones in China. The customized high quality earphones were unveiled for the first time to the public in May in Beijing.

Yu Chen, a postgraduate student majoring in microelectronics at Xian Electronics Science and Technology University, founded the startup with two other students in 2013.

As fans of headsets, the three found the market prices of custom earphones are too high for ordinary consumers and students. They decided to create their own affordable customized earphones with the help of 3D printing.

Image: XinhuaNet

"We start with taking pictures of a customer's ears, and then upload the photos online to create 3D models of the ears. Then the 3D model is sent to a 3D printer, where a customized earphone can be produced," explains Qi Weijia, co-founder of the startup.

Without production space, the team used Qi's apartment as workshop, and purchased 3D printers, laser cutters and other equipment. At this temporary workshop, they often work late into the night.

"The headset market has prosperous future, and 3D printing technology provides us more opportunities," said Qi.

"We use 3D printing and traditional methods to make the earphones," said Qi. "The tuning process is time-consuming, therefore our monthly production capacity is only around 50 sets."

But the advantage of the 3D printed earphones is the personalization. The 3D model ensures that your earphones will fit snugly in your ears. And you can always order replacement parts in the future. In addition, each set of earphones is printed on demand instead of mass production.

Statistics shows in 2013, 900 million sets of headphones were sold in China, 23 percent of which were high-end headphones which cost more than 800 RMB ($128). It is expect the sales of headphones would reach 120 million in 2015.

The startup has got the support from the university. According to Li Jin, a teacher and leader of the university's entrepreneurial incubator, the university has funded the project earlier this year. The team is currently negotiating with several investors for further cooperation.

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

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