AudioQuest-logo-153x30It’s almost impossible to go into any public space anymore without seeing people quietly listening to media — earbuds attached to iPhones, headphones attached to MP3 players or laptops, you name it. It’s a pretty saturated market already, so the last thing most people think of when it comes to developing innovative new products is the need for even more headphones. That, though, was before AudioQuest came onto the scene with NightHawk headphones.

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“When we decided to build NightHawk, we knew it had to be something special — it had to have a real reason to exist because no one needs another ordinary headphone,” said Skylar Gray, Designer and Director of Ear Speaker Products at AudioQuest.

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Skylar Gray

The NightHawk headphones feature a 3D printed component that may look small, but actually adds significantly to the quality of the sound they put out. The 3D printed grille makes the NightHawk the first headphones to enter the market with mass-produced 3D printed parts.

The headphones feature a biomimetic grille in the semi-open-back design. The grille, based on a butterfly wing structure, is a delicate piece with a complex lattice construction that diffuses sound. The intricate design would have been completely impossible to manufacture just five years ago — but thanks to 3D printing, it wasn’t just possible, but really makes up an integral part of the NightHawk’s already-award-winning design.

Gray and his team turned to Sculpteo for their 3D printing needs. The piece was printed out using an SLS-based printer using Sculpteo’s plastic material. The final part needed to be light — it weighs in at around 0.9 g/cm3 — and matches the overall smooth aesthetic of the NightHawk design. With several options for finishing and dyeing, Sculpteo had the selection for AudioQuest to get exactly the component they wanted. For headphones featuring a “liquid wood” material, aesthetics are pretty important.

“A grille like NightHawk’s, with its intricate diamond cubic latticework, couldn’t have been made five years ago,” said Gray. “The only way it could be created is through today’s advanced 3D printing. So, from the very start, we intended for NightHawk’s grille to be 3D printed. Designing with 3D printing in mind is quite liberating because there are far fewer restrictions and boundaries, enabling otherwise impossible forms and complexity. Without Sculpteo’s expert help, we simply wouldn’t have been able to prodAudioquest-pieceuce as compelling a product. We are very thankful for Sculpteo’s support and excellent work.”

The NightHawk headphones have already drawn some positive attention, even though they aren’t available on the market quite yet. With an anticipated release in 2015, the headphones have already been named as a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Best of Innovations Winner (Eco-Design and Sustainable Technologies).

Sculpteo too has felt the impact from their work on the NightHawk design.

“I can tell you that it is one of the largest orders we have processed through our services and we see it as a shifting moment as the viability of 3D printing a means of mass production becomes a reality,” Zach Correa, Marketing Assistant at Sculpteo, told us.
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What do you think about this new use for 3D printing? Let us know your thoughts in the NightHawk Headphones forum thread over at 3DPB.com.
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