Earbuds can be painful over time, or they can simply refuse to fit inside your ear, or fall out of it at every jolt of the head, unless they are the correct size. Even when earphones ship with several bud sizes, though, they are seldom a perfect fit.
Nikki Kaufman decided it was high time everyone and their brother, sister, mother or who you want could procure a set of earbuds that fit perfectly inside their auditory body parts.
Granted, custom-fitted and built earbuds aren't a new invention. However, the ones that exist out there are quite expensive, as they rely on a very involved process in order to be created.
First, a doctor has to squirt silicone in your ear, after which you need to keep your jaw clenched for ten minutes. After that, you need to wait for three to six weeks before getting the earbuds delivered.
Not only that, but you need to pay anything between $500 and $2,000 / €367 to €1,471, which is a lot of money no matter what anyone thinks. Especially the higher limit, which is greater than what most full-features PCs ship for.
Nikki Kaufman is a founding member of Quirky and got the idea to use 3D printing technology to make the Normals – that is the name chosen for the new earbuds.
All you have to do in order to get a pair is to take some photos of your ears, by means of a special app, and send them over to Kaufman's company, which is called Normal. Normal will then build a 3D model of the bud, print it and ship the bud in 48 hours, and you only need to pay $199 / €146.
It's a lot like how 3D printed prosthetic hands are better than the standard ones while costing a thousand times less ($5 / €37 instead of $50,000 / €37,000). Admittedly, the price advantage isn't as high here, but still significant.
Kaufman worked with Pantone on a few colors that the Normals can be printed in. In fact, you can use the app we mentioned before to determine the color of the drive housing, plug housing, remote, soft-touch plastic “earform” and even the cord. The earform is the actual part made to fit your particular ear lobe, by the way.
You can wear the Normal earphones normally, or flip the cord around your ear (good for running). If you're particularly possessive about your stuff, you can even have your name engraved on the carrying case (built according to the shape of the earbuds themselves).
Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D printers are used to fulfill all the orders that Normal's Chelsea office receives daily.