Dec 10, 2014 | By Alec

Maybe your dog hates your taste in music? Maybe your guinea pig loves to listen to smooth jazz in the middle of the night? If any of these cases apply to you, then you'll be interested to learn that the Oregon-based company Tesseract Design has recently developed customed-made 3D printed headphones for dogs and guinea pigs. Yes, this is weird, but it does capture the essence of 3D printing: any object can be adapted and shapes to fit your personal preferences, even if that means developing the strangest accessories for your pets.

I do have to come clean with you: this isn't a new commercial application of 3D printing aimed at pet owners (and guina pigs probably don't listen to jazz). Instead, Tesseract Design is a company that is regularly enlisted to work on complicated and imaginative design and 3D printing projects, like these headphones for pets.

Though even they have to admit this was an interesting and unusual case. They were recently approached by a small production company to work on a commercial for the Oregon Lottery. 'They needed headphones for some small animals – originally a cat, but the script was changed to incorporate a dog and a guinea pig.' The commercial hasn't been released yet, as it would be very interesting to see how these looked on screen.

As you can imagine, this proved to be a complicated 3D printing project, especially as they were only provided with a pair of full-scale (human) headphones that also feature in the commercial. To achieve the highest level of resemblance possible, the design team of Tesseract therefore resorted to scanning the individual 'cans' with a Matter and Form turntable scanner, which helped them to resize and 3D print these on a smaller scale.

Throughout the process, the size remained problematic. As the designers didn't have a dog or guinea pig available, they simply decided to scale the dog's headphones down to two-thirds of the original size, and the guinea pig's pair down to a fifth. Custom straps connecting the two cans were designed in 3D Studio Max.

These were subsequently printed in ABS filament, as the Tesseract team has extensive experience in achieving high-level results with that material. While many ABS prints tend to have that grainy, '3D printed' look to them, the Tesseract team uses the acetone vapour finishing technique to achieve a nice, professional-looking glossy finish. As they explained:

Fortunately, there is a way to overcome some of the flaws and drawbacks to 3D printing in ABS, even at low resolutions. ABS plastic is soluble in acetone, a common solvent available in any hardware store. [The best way] to approach the problem is by using vaporized acetone to uniformly melt and smooth the surface of the ABS model. The results are much nicer-looking, and generally less time-intensive than hand finishing, although there are certain safety procedures that need to be carefully followed.

The effects of vapour finishing can clearly be seen on the left.

If you'd like to try yourself, follow the simple steps in this tutorial here. But be sure to paint your models first! These great looking headphones were painted in red and black to get that realistic appearance.

And as it turned out, the dog's headphones were a perfect fit. Only the guinea pig's (Little Binky) pair needed a larger reprint before they actually fitted on his weirdly-shaped head. The commercial itself is set to begin shooting in a few days, so we'll hopefully be able to show you the final results soon.

That just leaves us to day-dream about a new business venture producing 3D printed accessories for pets. We've seen 3D printed dog toys in the past, so why not headphones? It might be exactly what your guinea pig needs. Though Tesseract's designs look great, be sure to think it through carefully before investing your life savings.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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