3D-printing company Formlabs is teaming up with audio giants Sennheiser to make custom tips for the latter’s high-end Ambeo earphones. Users can take an image of their ear with a mobile app, which they then upload, generating the design for a custom-fit earbud. Once designed, the plans are directed to a Formlabs’ Form3 printer for creation. In a statement, the pair said that the new process means that customers can acquire custom earphones, potentially, on the same day they were ordered.
Using smartphone imaging to create custom-fit earbuds without the use of molds isn’t a new practice, but has mostly been the province of specialists. Snugs already offers a service similar to Sennheiser’s, albeit as tips for other companies' earbuds. Similarly, companies like Sony have built ways for users to calibrate their audio profiles by using a smartphone picture of their ear for better listening. But the idea of introducing custom fit tips for a company as big as Sennheiser could potentially be revolutionary.
Naturally, Formlabs is happy to say that the key to the innovation is in its 3D-printing technology, which is finding plenty of real-world uses. In 2018, the company teamed up with Gillette to make user-designed razor handles, on a scale that’s rarely been seen before. Similarly, the company worked with New Balance on a 3D-printed sole, which uses a custom-designed resin for improved athletic performance.
Unfortunately, the pair aren’t prepared to talk about when we’ll be able to see the fruits of this partnership in a real product. Or, in fact, what the proposed cost for a custom-fit ear bud would be when they do become available, but it’ll be interesting to see how readily these options will be pushed in the near future.