Smartphones and MP3 players all include cheap earbuds which leave a bit to be desired in terms of performance and fit. OwnPhones founder, Itamar Jobani, says his company aims to address that shortcoming.
Jobani, an artist and designer, says he was frustrated with his own earbuds constantly falling out. A jogger, Jobani decided to use his extensive experience with 3D modeling, scanning and printing to put together a team of programmers, electronics engineers, industrial designers and others to make the perfect, custom headphones.
"The combination of the declining price of the 3D printer – as well as the availability of more and more materials – creates a competitive edge to 3D printing over traditional methods of manufacturing, allowing 3D printing to get into more and more industries," said Jobani.
The Bluetooth-enabled earbuds will be molded according to the shape of your ears, and the process is consumer (and designer) friendly indeed.
It goes like this: Your ears are scanned with a standard iPhone, and a video clip is sent to a server which interprets the data and translates it into a series of 3D images. A proprietary algorithm renders the 'ear image' into a printable design, and the finished product is then printed out in a just over an hour using the company's prototype device. Once the shell is complete, electronics are fitted inside.
And according to the company, the process goes well beyond fitting and into the aesthetics of the product. They say the potential is there for earphones to look like more than simply the tech accessory they are, and that they're reaching out to the design community to join OwnPhones and make earbuds a design statement. They say designers will be able to join their designer program and share or sell designs on their platform.
"OwnPhones represents a new paradigm in manufacturing – instead of producing millions of identical earbuds for different ears, we 3D print earbuds tailor made to each user," Jobani said. "Ears are like fingerprints – each one is unique – so we were able to develop earbuds that are custom made to actually fit your ears properly."