3D Printed Earbuds Compact




Introduction: 3D Printed Earbuds Compact

About: I have degrees in Architecture and recently ventured into the world of digitally fabricated jewelry (using 3d printing and laser cutting) and other accessories. Some of my designs are available for purchase ...

I love gadgets but I sometimes feel like gadgets and accessories are designed for and by men, and women's needs are almost completely ignored. For example when I had my first iPod and wanted an arm band to wear to the gym, I realized I would have to modify the one I bought because the velcro didn't extend far enough to wrap around my small arms (either that or I needed to work out A LOT more... I chose to modify it ;). So when I was looking for something to carry my iPhone earbuds in I figured I would try to design something that matched my own personal needs but could also work for other women.

What I was looking for in an earbud holder (and what I wasn't really finding) was something that was large enough to completely protect the earbuds when I tossed it in my purse, but was also lightweight and compact enough that it wasn't a hassle to carry it around with me. Compact was kind of the key word-- I realized the makeup compacts that most women carry around in their makeup bag might be a good starting point for my design. And that's where the idea for the Earbuds Compact came from.

Step 1: How to Make an Earbud Compact- Create 2 Halves

I created my model in Sketchup though you can use any 3D software you prefer. Just be sure that you can measure dimensions with some precision (this will be important later) and that you can export it into a format that can be printed (.stl is usually best).

You can make a compact as simple or as complex as you like. The first thing you want to do is create 2 symmetrical halves for the compact. They don't have to remain the same but the edges that come together should line up. And the bottom half should have a relatively flat surface on the underside.

Step 2: Add a Hinge and a Clasp

Once you have a shape you're happy with you'll want to add a hinge and clasp. The great thing about 3D printing is that you can model these items in place and if you print via a high quality printer (i.e. companies like Shapeways that have industrial quality printers) you'll end up with a single piece that works without any modifications .

The hinge is essentially 3 parts-- the bottom tubes, the top tubes and the rod that goes through them (I'm sure there's a more correct way of referring to the parts of the hinge but I'm not engineer so... ;).

For the hinge be sure to leave enough clearance so that the moving parts are not fused together as one. I believe for Shapeways it needs to have a .5mm clearance (this is where being able to precisely measure dimensions in the model becomes really important).

For the clasp you can take a look at a compact you have or anything that operates in the same way to get an idea of how to model it (I looked at a floss container). Mine was basically a flap on the top half that was flexible enough to pass over the bump on the bottom and stay in place.

Make sure that any details you create are large enough so that they don't get worn away. The little bump on the bottom half didn't show up in my final print from Shapeways-- I'm guessing it disappeared during the polishing process so I will make it more substantial the next time.

Step 3: [Optional] Add Your Earbud Holder/Winder

This is an optional part of the design but it makes it much easier to store your earbuds in your compact if you have something to wind the cord around. I tried a bunch of different ideas but in the end I needed something that could first hold the actual buds securely in place then bring the two cables together as one (see the photo) to make wrapping easier.

Step 4: Testing Your Design So Far

If you're not ready to send your design away to have it professionally printed you can test out your compact by printing it in separate pieces on your home 3D printer. I test printed some on my Printrbot Simple. They didn't look great but they gave me an idea of scale and what needed fixing. And while I couldn't print all the parts as one piece I was still able to make sure the hinge and other parts actually worked without having to spend lots of $$. If that's not an option then I would do a mini prototype since something at the scale of a compact can get pricey when you're still working out your design.

Step 5: Make Sure It Fits

Lastly just make sure you leave a generous amount of room in your design so that the compact can close properly when your earbuds are all wrapped up (I scaled mine up a few times to make sure it worked).

And then you're done! You have your own gadget accessory to protect your earbuds that looks way cooler than any store bought mass-manufactured accessory you could find.

Gadget Hacking and Accessories Contest

Finalist in the
Gadget Hacking and Accessories Contest



    • Fix It! Contest

      Fix It! Contest
    • Metalworking Contest

      Metalworking Contest
    • Tiny Home Contest

      Tiny Home Contest

    20 Discussions

    could you please post files? I'm not that good at designing these things...

    2 replies

    Hello and sorry for the late reply. Because I currently sell this design I can't post the files. But if/when I "retire" the design I will definitely post the files here.

    Thank you and sorry I missed this message. Unfortunately I can't post the file because I sell it on Shapeways. But you can view the 3d model there if you click on the very last photo: https://www.shapeways.com/product/HUYE4CXNZ/earbuds-compact?li=user-profile&optionId=42802833

    When I printed it on my home 3D printer it took a few hours on a low quality setting, but for the ones I sell on Shapeways that are laser sintered in polyamide I'm guessing more than a day. They can't actually tell you how long because it's printed with other people's models so the print time is for the whole batch.


    4 years ago

    You could possibly sell these on etsy.com and name them Earbud Armor :o I usually just use an altoids tin but whenever I get a 3D printer this will definitely be one of my first projects :D

    1 reply

    Hmm... Earbud Armor is starting to sound really catchy...

    I have an etsy shop ( http://archetypez.etsy.com ) that I sell my 3D printed jewelry at... I will probably tweak this design a bit and sell it there and on Shapeways.

    Despite being a guy and that I don't carry purses, I would still find this useful for my laptop bag, backpack, suitcase, etc. It really is a neat design to look at and you did a wonderful job. Great instructable!

    1 reply

    Love this! Earbud armor, lol! I can't count the number of pairs of earbuds I've had that have succumbed to death by battering from being inside my purse...

    1 reply

    Lol! Same here... I got in the habit of using cheap earbuds just so I don't ruin my good ones.