Products and Design

Alienology’s Latest: Audiophile-Approved 3D Printed Speakers

Designer Igor Knezevic, AKA Alienology, has had quite a year. After helping create artist Anouk Wipprecht’s incredible Living Pods and being nominated for an Academy Award for his work on “Passengers,” Igor’s taking things in a new direction: cutting-edge audio.

Last week, Knezevic and sound engineer Edin Secibovic launched a Kickstarter for their innovative T3TRA loudspeakers. With frames in colorful Shapeways Strong & Flexible nylon and panels in laser-cut birch plywood, the speakers combine two of the most popular digital manufacturing techniques. The single-piece tetrahedral frame also offers a distinct audiophile advantage, dramatically reducing vibration (and the usual small-speaker tinniness). The result is a small-but-mighty portable speaker. I asked Igor about what led him down this new path in product design.

What inspired you to create the T3TRA speakers?

I thought, “Let’s try to use the simplest geometric forms,” which make great sense for hi-fi sound (no hard edges, no corners, so fewer resonances, etc.), and try to make all the pieces digitally, with a minimum of post-processing. The frame is 3D printed and the sides are natural plywood (birch), laser-cut to fit perfectly into the 3D printed frame. As a result, T3TRA speakers have great sound, especially in this size group.

The finished T3TRA, and in concept form

What advantages did the 3D printed element bring to the speakers?

The tetrahedral frame of the loudspeaker is 3D printed in SLS nylon, giving it great stability and excellent sound properties because of the shape (no parallel edges), rounded edges (better for sound diffusion) and perfect uniformity of nylon material. In short, it’s a “unibody” frame. This is quite hard to achieve with other manufacturing methods. Plus, it can have that really intense Shapeways dye color. The color really pops – like candy.

Available color options

What was the process of creating them like?

This sound system as a form/shape was designed by myself, but the real sound expertise was provided by my friend and co-creator Edin Secibovic, who is a sound engineer. As we tried out some ideas, we realized that by combining two digital manufacturing methods, we can achieve an affordable speaker design which can be produced on-demand and hand-assembled relatively quickly. As far as sound quality is concerned, it worked at first try! We were very pleasantly surprised. Even deep sounds were apparent, which can be a problem for small-form speakers. A few tweaks were needed to make the parts fit perfectly, but it was pretty painless.

The 3D printed frame and laser-cut side panels

Overall, what makes these speakers special?

It’s about having the minimum number of parts, which fit perfectly together since they are all fully digitally manufactured – making for excellent sound distribution. In sound, less is definitely more. It turns out SLS nylon is a very good material for sound applications since the material is perfectly uniform in all directions and sizes are always exact.

We also have another design in the works – this one fully 3D printed, and with a different form factor. Coming soon, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the Kickstarter for the T3TRA speakers, and don’t miss the incredible pieces in Alienology’s Shapeways shop. Let us know in the comments: have you used 3D printed parts in gadgets you’d like us to feature? Leave a note below for a chance to be featured on the blog.

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