Jan 21, 2016 | By Benedict

Traditionalist guitar-lovers, including those with a soft spot for additive manufacturing, might be horrified to hear “Fender” and “3D printing” in the same sentence. Innovation is one thing, but a PLA-bodied Stratocaster? Hendrix would be rocking and rolling in his grave. Unfortunately for conservatives, Fender has already experimented with a 3D printed Honeycomb Core Telecaster, but purists can just about relax: The legendary guitar manufacturer has now channeled its 3D printing enthusiasm into its latest range of in-ear monitors, priced between $100 and $500.

Non-musicians might be wondering why these 3D printed audio devices are called “monitors” and not “earphones”. The explanation lies in their ultimate purpose: In-ear monitors are a particular kind of earphone used by singers and musicians to hear or “monitor” their own voices or instruments during a live performance. When an artist performs in a medium-to-large-sized venue, big speaker systems are used to carry the sound to the audience. This is great for the crowds, but can be a nightmare for performers who cannot properly hear their own playing. For example, if a singer can’t properly hear themselves or their bandmates, they’re more likely to sing out of tune or out of time.

Fender’s 3D printed Pro In-Ear Monitors can be used on or off-stage, and are available in five distinct models, from the smartphone-friendly DXA1 to the ultra-professional FXA7, designed for high quality performance monitoring. The 3D printed Digital Hybrid Technology (DHT) shell, used in each models apart from the DXA1, used thousands of 3D scanned ears to create a comfortable, natural fit. According to Fender, these 3D printed shells will fit 95% of ears like an expensive custom-molded monitor.

"The launch of the Fender In-Ear Monitor Series is an exciting step in the expansion of our product offering," Fender's Jim Ninesling said in the announcement. "We believe serious players and discriminating audiophiles alike will appreciate both the design and performance of Fender IEM's, setting the stage for further additions to this new line in the future."

The in-ear monitors are not the first 3D prints to come out of the Fender camp. Back in 2013, Fender showed off its prototype Honeycomb Core Telecaster guitar, made with a fully 3D printed body. The Telecaster guitar, traditionally made with an alder, ash or poplar wood body and maplewood neck, has been used by guitarists like Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards and Jonny Greenwood.

Although the guitar giant is yet to put any of its 3D printed axes up for sale, the 3D printed plastic Telecaster certainly looks the business. “Fender has been involved in 3D printing for a long time,” explained Keith Chapman, Senior Vice President, R&D at Fender, whilst demonstrating that guitar in 2013. “We used it every day for our prototyping and have for over five years. When we started seeing the trends of 3D printing, we really had to take a serious look at what it means to Fender from a production standpoint and from a personalization standpoint for the musician.

“3D printing really gives us a lot of flexibility that we don’t necessarily have in wood. For new technology pieces, for sensors, for bridges, mass customization… It’s a very attractive material, tonally.”

The 3D printed monitors were made by Aurisonics, a brand recently acquired by Fender.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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