If your looking at the above image thinking, “wow they are awesome I need to buy me some of that”, then you’ll be disappointed. These speakers are a one-of-a-kind design by Autodesk as part of an experiment into multi-material 3D printing and cannot be purchased anywhere, not yet at least. They were designed digitally using Autodesk’s 3DS Max 3D modelling and animation software, plus Autodesk Inventor 3D software for mechanical design.
They were created on a Objet Connex 500 3D printer, which unlike the cheaper 3D printers out there can simultaneously integrate two different materials into printing off one seamless object with ultimate precision. Using a flexible rubber material and a hard translucent plastic, innovation engineer at Autodesk Evan Atherton wanted to push past the boundaries of 3D prototyping and create an easily manipulated form without losing the rigidity needed to make a believable consumer finished product.
What was achieved were two stunningly crafted hollow orbs, which Atherton thought would be perfect as speaker housing due to the dampening effects of the materials used. Of course, several prototypes were printed first before the final speakers were completed. It was whilst going through this phase that it was discovered if you place a light inside the orb, the integrated material that had been created expelled the light so perfectly and beautifully. Enter pal John Taylor, founder of LumiGeek.
Working in collaboration, the guys from Autodesk and LumiGeek placed inside the speakers, a high density addressable RGB LED strip which has audio reactive drivers. LumiGeek had already created a bluetooth-programmable, Arduino compatible microcontroller for LED’s that can dictate video output based on audio files. Essentially you can create your very own custom light show, via an app from your i-pad, i-phone or DIY hardware like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, that can control the style of light effect the LED’s make when reacting with sound.
The final product is, I think you’ll agree, the epitome of ‘cool’, but made with approximately $2,200 worth of 3D printing material, is just not practical as a marketable product. However, the fact that someone is pushing 3D printing past prototyping is a step in the right direction for this technology. With 20 years in the making, its about time this design innovation lived up to the hype to revolutionise the world we live in, hopefully for the better.
Finally, there is some hope for those of you wanting a pair of these beauties, with LumiGeek co-founders Joe Martin and John Taylor putting together a Kickstarter to get their LED controlling boards off the ground and out onto the market. This gives plenty of scope for electronicists, designers and DIY hobbyists to incorporate the clever invention into their own projects or even their own speaker housings. Where do I sign up?!