Aug 31, 2015 | By Alec

As 3D printing is becoming increasingly affordable while the quality seems to be constantly rising, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people and businesses are looking into 3D printing technology as a manufacturing technology. And while we here at will be the first to say that 3D printers are not just a prototyping, but can also a production tool, it remains to be seen when and how this can be applied efficiently and cost-effectively. While opinions on the matter are divided, Polish 3D printer manufacturers Zotrax has just vigorously argued that we shouldn’t be looking at 3D printers for mass-production, but always for customization – something emphasized through very cool looking 3D printed loudspeaker.

Readers might remember Zortrax for their M200 3D printer, and the tremendously successful Kickstarter campaign that funded it (gathering nearly $180 000 in pledges) in 2013. And as Zotrax’s Ludmiła Rafalska just argued, 3D printers should above all be used to customize designs for each and every order. ‘First of all, the product you create is to serve your customers well in many everyday situations, so the thing you need to consider is its ergonomics. That aspect should be thought over at the very production stage, as this is the perfect time for multiple trial and error testing and functionality evaluating,’ she says, arguing that 3D printing enables is perfect for low-cost customization and design improvement.

This is illustrated by the 3D printing and design of the flashy loudspeaker visible above, of which Rafalska says that it has specifically designed to meet all the wishes of a customer. 'Probably you are fed up with buying new stuff each year, as the old one gets broken or is not compatible with the newest technology. Get rid of short-lived technics and create your own alternative by 3D printing the loudspeaker cabinet and packing it with best parameters electronics. Having a 3D printer you can create stuff that lasts,’ she says. 'The quality of a product that goes hand in hand with the perfectly suitable design is a rare thing. Especially, for those who don’t want to choose one by losing one another or waste their time on leafing through the buyer guides.’ And instead of choosing between superior electronics and good handling or mounting options, why not combine the two yourself?

This uniqueness, she says, can be perfectly captured by a 3D printer – though few in the 3D printing community will need to be convinced of that. ‘A 3D printer is in fact a powerhorse that creates possibilities of product creation that were impossible and really expensive to obtain by traditional methods like e.g. injection molding, CNC machining or others (not to mention the costs of outsourcing if the tasks were delegated),’ Rafalska says.

And while obviously a promotional piece, her point is further emphasized by 3D printing a very impressive and unusual loudspeaker. If Rafalska is believed, this entire piece is 3D printed with the M200 3D printer (aside from the electronics), using their own premium filaments. ‘Choosing premium quality printing materials like Z-Ultrat or Z-Hips ensures resistance and durability,’ she says. However, the Polish manufacturers have graciously made their stl files for this cool loudspeaker available on their website, and should be easily 3D printable on other desktop models as well. While Zortrax’s own M200 relies on what they call Layer Plastic Deposition (LPD) technology, the principle is largely the same as regular FDM 3D printing.

As Rafalska explains, this loudspeaker was fully customized to suit the needs of the designer, who wanted a model that would not only look great, but would also be usable in both his flat and his car. ‘Looking for a perfect model that would meet his needs was rather time-consuming task, so he decided to 3D print the loudspeaker himself. As the time previously devoted for research was saved, he could focus more on the design,’ she says. ‘He started by creating a model in a CAD program, then he imported it to the Z-Suite slicing software where he set all the parameters like type of infill, layer thickness, support angle and others. The program displayed the approximate printing time and the filament use.’

Z-HIPS, Z-GLASS and Z-ULTRAT filaments were used, all by Zortrax. The full list of printing times, infills and layer thicknesses can be found on Zortrax’s project page here. ‘The designer inserted all the electrical elements responsible for sound producing and the acoustic foam to provide good sound quality. All the printed elements were screwed together with an allen key so the model was finished,’ she says. And the sound quality, Rafalska adds, was fantastic. While this doesn’t exactly mean that 3D printers will never be used for mass production, this cool loudspeaker definitely emphasizes that they are perfect for customization.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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