From designs inspired by Star wars to complex structures taking advantage of physics phenomena, we take a look at some of the coolest 3D printed speakers. Dive into the fascinating world of sound!
Traditionally, most hobbyist speakers have been made of wood and their shapes were boring rectangular prisms. Only commercial and high-level designs dared to be more challenging and exotic.
But what about an innovative design makes for a good speaker? Let’s talk science.
A loudspeaker placed in open air, without an enclosure, can’t emit sound effectively at lower frequencies. That’s because the two sound waves produced from the front and back surfaces of the speaker interfere with one another, causing poor sound quality, echo, and reverberation.
This phenomenon is known as phase cancellation and is the reason why a speaker and its box form an inseparable marriage. The acoustic box acts as a sound isolator and has the critical mission of preventing sound cancellation, thus increasing the speaker effectiveness.
If a closed box is used, it’s possible to avoid canceling the sound, but the sound transmitted to the back of the speaker is lost. This has given rise to the design and study of different types of acoustic boxes that are able to avoid cancellation and recover the backward-emitted sound.
A New Wave
For decades, acoustic box solutions have been proposed and developed, although many promising results were difficult to build for the hobbyist with scarce resources. In addition, manufacturing costs tend to be high, so many commercial designs still retain the shape of a rectangular prism.
With relatively new 3D printing technologies, it’s now possible to build not only aesthetically pleasing designs but also an almost limitless range of acoustic structures. In this way, additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the design of acoustic cabinets.
In the following, we’ll take a look at some fun and interesting 3D printed desktop speakers, but nothing prevents the printing of larger volume acoustic boxes!
Before we dive into the list, here are some general tips for 3D printed speakers:
Spirula by Akemake is inspired by one of the most emblematic designs of the high-end audio world: The famous Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus speakers take listening to the limit, but still they require something to accommodate negative side effects.
Towards this end, this “box” adopts a spiral shape, deadening unwanted resonances and achieving a purer sound. In addition to the characteristics of its form, it’s best if this design is made of wood, mainly because of the better acoustic properties. Wood-filled PLA has also been used with relative success.
One of the most difficult shapes to build is a sphere, especially if the surface must have some particular design. Once again, additive manufacturing comes to the rescue. With 3D printing, producing spherical designs is easy, with all kinds of customization.
Rich Olsen, the creator of Nomoon, didn’t intend to imitate the image of the Death Star, but the intimidating space station was perfectly suited to the task. Even better, the design is fully parametrizable, allowing one to adjust the diameter of the speaker hole.
At the beginning of our trip, we saw how it’s necessary to acoustically isolate the front of the speaker from its rear surface in order to avoid sound cancellation. One idea, based on physics principles, is the well-known “transmission line”.
Here, the rear-facing sound wave must travel through a long duct in the hopes that it is completely eliminated. Since this is practically impossible, a transmission line should at least “shift” the wave to match the face of the front-facing wave, resulting in amplification instead of attenuation.
These egg-shaped speakers not only enjoy a unique design but also provide a very remarkable acoustic effect.
In traditional rectangular prism speakers, the parallel walls create undesired effects in the reproduction of sound. This is because, inside the acoustic box, the waves reflect and interfere with each other when on the same path. Solving this issue is one of the most ambitious shapes in the world of hi-fi and hi-end: the egg form
In addition to the roundness of the box, Heine Nielsen’s egg-shaped speaker is what’s known as a bass reflex or vented box. That means it has a hole that allows low-frequency sounds to contribute to the front-facing sound.
Whether you’re a student of acoustic science or simply want to amaze your friends, this is the design we recommend.
This dodecahedron speaker from Thingiverse user Sean Michael Ragan actually has twelve speakers, with each directed in a different direction. This configuration makes it possible to approximate the effect of point-load radiation, that is, sound emitted in all possible directions. In this way, the speaker allows one to study the acoustic characteristic of a room.
Being modular, it’s possible to build a bar of any length and obtain higher performance. And it turns out that, when two speakers are placed next to each other and are connected to the same amplifier channel, the radiated sound power of each speaker doubles.
This means that with two speakers, one next to the other, you’ll have the equivalent sound of four individual speakers. This is the foundation behind the line array often seen at large outdoor concerts.
License: The text of "3D Printed Speaker – 6 Projects That Rock the Most" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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