3D Printed Speakers With Many Lessons Learned

Although we all wish that our projects would turn out perfect with no hiccups, the lessons learned from a frustrating project can sometimes be more valuable than the project itself. [Thomas Sanladerer] found this to be the case while trying to build the five satellite speakers for a 5.1 surround sound system, and fortunately shared the entire process with us in all its messy glory.

[Thomas] wanted something a little more attractive than simple rectangular boxes, so he settled on a very nice curved design with few flat faces and no sharp corners, 3D printed in PLA. Inside each is an affordable broadband speaker driver and tweeter, with a crossover circuit to improve the sound quality and protect the drivers. The manufacturer of the drivers, Visatron, provides very nice speaker simulation software to select the appropriate drivers and design the crossover circuit. The front of each speaker consisted of a 3D printed frame, covered with material from a cut-up T-shirt. These covers attach to the main body using magnets and really look the part.

After printing, [Thomas] soaked all the parts in water to clean of the PVA support structures but discovered too late that the outer surfaces are not watertight and a lot of water had seeped into the parts. In an attempt to dry them he left them in the sun for a while which ended up warping some parts, so he had to reprint them anyway. The main bodies were printed in two parts and then glued together. This required a lot of sanding to smooth out the glue joints, and many cycles of paint and sanding to get rid of the layer lines. When assembling the different pieces, he found that many parts did not fit together, which he suspects was caused by incorrect calibration on the delta-bot printer he was using.

In the end, the build took almost two years, as [Thomas] needed breaks between all the frustration, and eventually only used one of the speakers. We’re glad he shared the messy parts of the project, which will hopefully spare someone else a bit of trouble in a project.

Listening to a high-quality audio setup is always a pleasure, and we’ve covered several projects from audiophiles, including affordable DML speakers, and 3D printed speaker drivers.

24 thoughts on “3D Printed Speakers With Many Lessons Learned

  1. Doh! Who would have ever guessed that PLA sucks?

    I can’t understand why anyone prints anything with PLA. I know it’s easy to print, but you can’t do anything with the prints when you’re done.

    1. Plenty of uses for PLA. As with every material, it has strengths and weaknesses. I print most things in PLA. From 3d printer feeders, to custom print heads, project boxes, mounting brackets, camera accessories etc. We’ve had customers that have used it for spare parts in boats, underwater research equipment, architectural models, moulds for human skull repairs, bridge manufacturing of products etc etc.

      So I don’t think I agree with your blanket statement of “PLA sucks”.

      1. I remember when I got a heated bed for my older printer, I thought I “graduated” beyond PLA and swore I’d never go back. I mean, I make _practical parts_, not tons of useless figurines and I need “real “plastic for my designs. Well, years later and an unimaginable amount of filament used, I’d guess that for every kilo of ABS I melt, I go through 3 of PETG and probably 8-10 PLA. Ego checked, lesson learned: every plastic has it’s place.

        Everyone should really check out Thomas’ filoween series. It may change your mind about PLA as a whole, and it most certainly will help you design better parts and select plastics that suit the individual needs of each application. It could also save you money or a few headaches.

        1. It sounds like he should have checked his own series before he chose PLA to make the parts that melted in the sun.

          ABS costs the same as PLA. If your printer can print ABS, why use PLA for anything, especially when you can’t guarantee that the print will never get left in a hot car or out in the sun on a warm day?

          1. I’ll agree with you on that. Thomas has been 3D printing for numerous years more than I have which as only been a year. I learned early on that you can’t leave a PLA printed part in the Sun. He should’ve known that already.

          2. Because ABS makes my lungs burn. PLA has held up fine for everything mechanical that I needed so far, and if it needs to stand up to higher temperatures I just use PETG or a PLA blend with a higher glass transition point.

      2. Can you name an application where a PLA print would have better, lasting performance than the same print made with ABS? I can’t think of any. Ohhh! I just thought of one- ABS won’t hold up well around acetone. Maybe there’s some application for PLA around acetone…

        1. Did PLA kick your dog or something? You seem incredibly defensive and a bit childish about the whole thing. Like I said earlier, different materials have different strength and weaknesses.

          In the example of PLA vs ABS, PLA is a stiffer material which deforms less than ABS. But because of this, it is weaker when it comes to impacts. The data is out there if you’re willing to learn about it, here’s an example from BASF (formerly Innofil):
          https://www.ultrafusefff.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Ultrafuse_PLA_TDS_EN_v4.3.pdf
          https://www.ultrafusefff.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Ultrafuse_ABS_TDS_EN_v5.2.pdf

          1. Based on its properties, it seems that if you want the ultimate in rigidity, impact resistance and UV and heat resistance… you would print with ASA. I’ve never printed with ASA, but I’ve read its just little harder to print and a little more expensive than ABS.

      1. No one is saying it is a weak material. But it melts at such a low temperature that you can’t count on the prints maintaining their shape for very long. If you leave it in a hot car, or ship it across country and it sits in a warehouse or delivery vehicle for any length of time, will it still work? Why take the chance?

      1. Not to mention he wasnt working on it for 2 years straight. I’ve had projects take far longer because I got frustrated and left them for months before looking at them again and getting frustrated so leaving it for months… lol

  2. IMHO the wrong tech for the job. One of my issues is getting out of my comfort zone. I would have a hard time doing the CAD work to 3D print speaker boxes when I could make them out of wood in less time than it would take me to draw them on the computer, no less print them.

    Last year the SO wantd a bunch of planters about 16″ square. I could not fathom the amount of time it would take to 3D print them. It took under 2 days to go from old oak pallets sitting roadside to 6 planters. Oddly enough the slats the sides were amde out of were not all the same height, so the sides were all over 16″ and one of the last steps was going to be running each compleated face through the table saw to make them a nice even 16″. The SO saw the jagged and for some reason really liked the look, so that step got erased and I was off to drilling holes in the bottom and putting the feet on for drainage.

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