When it come to listening to music, without distracting others, you pretty much have 3 options: 1) You could find a reclusive place and hide, to blast your music at your heart’s own desire, 2) You could wear unsightly headphones that cover both your ears, or 3) you could wear the extremely uncomfortable earbuds that probably will either pop out of your ears within a few minutes, or cause so much pain that you are forced to remove them yourself. Unfortunately these are the only options we have had available in an age of technology that is far more advanced.
A company called ‘Normal‘, and their founder Nikki Kaufman, have come up with a plan to change this. Normal, launching today, uses the innovative technology of 3D printing to produce one-of-a-kind custom earbuds, tailor-made per individual. Kaufman, one of the founding members of Quirky, was tired of poor-quality earphones that didn’t fit properly. After she went through dozens of these devices, she was forced to look into having a custom pair created. Upon doing so, she was stunned to find out that the price for having custom molded earbuds created was approximately $2,000, and worse yet, they would take over 3 weeks to manufacture.
So, Kaufman came up with the ingenious idea of 3D printing her own custom earbuds, as well as those for others. Tada! ‘Normal’ emerged, a product that is customized to each individual’s ears, via a mobile app, and delivered in as little as 48 hours.
These premium quality earphones are compatible with any audio device, and include a microphone that is compatible with iOS. Each pair costs only $199 (including shipping and tax), and ship with a custom 3D printed case, specifically made for each individual pair, including the customer’s name.
Everyone’s ears are shaped and sized differently, so why in the world are earbuds still created in the “one size fits all” model? We had the chance to catch up with Nikki Kaufman, and she was nice enough to provide us with a bit of an interview, as seen below:
What gave you the idea to create 3D printed earphones?
Nikki Kaufman: The existing process to make custom earphones is extremely inaccessible: it involves a doctor’s visit, uncomfortable silicone molds, and hundreds to several thousands of dollars. I wanted to create a more accessible price and process for consumers!
What makes these different than some other 3D printed earbuds that we have seen come on the market lately?
Nikki Kaufman: ‘Normals’ are the first 3D printed earphones on the market. There has certainly been talk of potential products, but we’re the first to actually have earphones available for purchase.
The ease of the order process sets us apart from more traditional custom earphones.Using the mobile app (available on iOS and Android), users take photos of each ear (no two are alike) and are led through a customization flow to design their earphones. The earphones are then tailored to fit each user’s ears and assembled to reflect their customization choices. No two pairs of Normals will ever be the same.
Because Normals are made in house, each order is manufactured, assembled, and delivered in as little as 48 hours, guaranteed. We make it easy to buy tailor-made earphones.
How would you say these would compare to competition such as “Beats by Dre”?
Nikki Kaufman: We can’t really compare the two. Normals are a fully personalized product and the quality of the sound and listening experience reflects that. The earphones are sold independently of other retailers, and through the mobile app, customers can order from anywhere at any time.
Can you explain a little about how these are 3D printed? Mass production needs to be fast. What 3D printers do you utilize, and how much of the actual product is 3D printed?
Nikki Kaufman: Once the earphones are ordered through our mobile app, we’re able to use the photos collected to make each pair of Normals. We ask the user to hold a quarter next to their ear for scale when taking each photo – our ear tailoring magic depends on it!
We currently have ten Fortus 250mc printers, 2 paint booths, 2 cleaning stations , 2 smoothing stations and 1 laser cutter at our factory store in NYC. After the 3D printing process, the earphones are assembled and tested on site. Normals come with a personalized carrying case that is fit to the shape of the customer’s Normals, and laser etched with the customer’s name. A customer’s Normals will only fit in their carrying case and their ears.
While we aren’t 3D printing audio drivers and cables (yet!), the parts that makes one’s earphones the perfect fit for one’s ear is fully 3D printed.
How do you make sure that the earbuds fit the customers’ ears perfectly? How do you get the exact shape and size of the ear using a simple mobile app?
Nikki Kaufman: Our mobile app walks customers through the process and a step-by-step demo and audio instructions ensure they take the photos correctly. We require users to hold a quarter up next to their ear in each photo for scale, and utilize what we call the “tiltometer” to help them take the photo at the right angle.
As you can see, Kaufman is serious about her product, and really believes that this will revolutionize the music industry. Starting today, you can purchase your 3D printed personalized earbuds from the ‘Normal‘ website.
What do you think? Will you be purchasing a pair of these? Discuss in the Normal Earbud forum thread on 3DPB.com
Check out the video below:
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