The third version of our 3D printed full-range FR loudspeaker series used metal-filled filament to add density and stiffness to the enclosure. It worked in that regard, but the material was unpractial due to brittleness both during printing and in the final product.
What has changed compared to the FR3 speaker
For the fourth version we switched to wood-filled filament, which is more ductile and easier to process. The shape of the enclosure remains the same as in the FR3 speaker, because it was proven to be very good in terms of resonances and edge diffraction. The diameter of the driver, enclosure and tripod legs was reduced to obtain a more slender design for desktop use. The binding posts are upgraded to sturdy Dayton Audio binding posts. The driver used is the Tang Band W3-1878, and the leadscrews for the legs are 12 mm. Leadscrew nuts are bonded into recesses in the enclosure and allow for adjustment of the legs. Small TPU feet can be printed and placed at the ends of the leadscrews in order to avoid scratching the desktop.
You can 3D print your own sub and satellite system by purchasing the STL files from our Etsy Shop.
Our previous 3d printed subwoofer, the SW1, is a 13 liter subwoofer with a 6.5″ driver, a matching passive radiator and a plate amp. We wanted to develop something smaller that would still offer the bass extension that satellite speakers so badly need. The result is the SW2 using a 5″ long-throw driver and the same passive radiatior as in the SW1. The enclosure is now only 5 liters and much easier to place on the desktop. The passive resonator allows tuning the resonance frequency to match room modes, for example. The spherical shape is optimal for material use and stiffness. Combined with the small diameter driver with large surrounds, the appearance is quite unique. If a traditional box is what you want, then this build is not for you.
The measured resonance frequency of the passive radiator indicates that some air-coupling occurs. Simulated resonance frequency matches the measured value (53 Hz) when 16 grams of added mass is used. Mass can be further added using washers to avoid room modes. Practical lower roll-off frequency is 50 Hz. The Arylic amplifier offers DSP capabilites and using a computer as the source allows unlimited DSP with zero cost. Therefore, frequency response in not that meaningful especially when considering the room effects, but we have included some measurements to give an idea of the natural response especially around the knee.
The enclosure is printed in one part (234 mm diameter) and takes approximately 1.5 kg of filament. Print time is about 48 hours. The mass can be increased by lining the walls with sound deadening mat. Although the external wall is spherical, there is a cylindrical inside wall that braces the woofer with the resonator and, thanks to single curvature surface, allows easy placement of thick sound deadening mat. The drivers are fastened using 4.2 mm wood screws and there is a geometry file for a gasket for the woofer which can be printed from TPU. Traditional gasketing methods will work obviously, too. The binding posts are recessed deep into the enclosure and only accept banana plugs in that configuration. An O-ring under the binding post washer is recommended and there is a chamfer for it. Wood-filled prints can easily be sanded for a smoother finish. The photos show 15 minutes worth of post-processing making this a very easy and fast build without compromising in function and looks.
The subwoofer was compared to the much larger, THX certified Logitech Z623 subwoofer. The sound is very similar, but in a much smaller package. The SW2 is a great companion for small satellite speakers and brings fullness to the bass. Electronic music will benefit from the “boom” offered by this small unit, while other types of music may require turning down the level a bit for a tighter bass.
Our 3D printed full-range speakers needed something to beef up the lower end of the frequency spectrum. We set out to design a compact subwoofer that can be used together with our FR3 speakers. The result is a 13 liter enclosure with a 6.5″ driver, a matching passive resonator and a plate amp. The passive resonator allows tuning the resonance frequency to match room modes, for example. The plate amp can power satellite speakers and has a fixed high-pass filter. The low-pass cut-off frequency for the subwoofer can be adjusted and the level too, which means that this system can be easily mated with signal sources that do not have equalizing or DSP capabilities in themselves.
The enclosure consists of two parts, which are glued together after printing. Total print time is about 100 hours and uses about 4 kg of filament. Support is only needed for the small recess where the plate amp is mounted. Dual-material printing is not needed. The mass of the enclosure can be increased by filling the walls with epoxy through the holes in the back. A geometry file for 3D printing a matching funnel is provided, too. 2 kg additional mass can be obtained this way.
The 3D files can be found on Thingiverse for free:
The first version used internal ribbing and bitumen paint to reduce enclosure resonance. The second version used an external carbon fiber shell. Both approaches were a bit cumbersome. For the third version we wanted to fully use the capabilities of 3D-printing. Therefore, a high-density metal-filled filament was used and internal gyroid-shaped support was used even where overhanging surfaces would not have required it. In addition, height and tilt can be adjusted using three threaded rods that form a tripod. The finished enclosure with three 14 mm trapezoid-threaded nuts bonded to it weighs 1.2 kg.
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Using additive manufacturing (AM) has many benefits over traditional construction methods, such as design freedom, fast product development and integration of functions into one part. There are drawbacks as well. The plastic AM parts tend to be low in mass and not very stiff. Air-tight walls are sometimes difficult to achieve, too. Adding mass by increasing fill density of the print is not a good solution, since it adds build time and material cost. Stiffeners and bitumen paint were used in (Version 1). However, the stiffeners were cumbersome to paint with bitumen and it did not add significant weight. For Version 2, we used the vent as a part of the mechanical structure and used a thicker wall. But some additional means were needed to bring 3D printed enclosures on par with traditional cabinet materials.
Carbon fiber in loudspeker building
Dry carbon fiber tow was wound around the enclosure and then wetted with epoxy resin. The composite skin was sanded after curing and additional coats of epoxy were added. The result is a unique unidirectional carbon fiber surface finish. The composite shell adds mass and stiffness to the enclosure. The loudspeaker sits on four feet printed from TPU material, which allows rotating the speaker.
Make them yourself
The following changes were made to Thingiverse:
Updating the driver dimensions and screw pattern to the latest Alpair 7 MS.
The weight of the loudspeaker will try to bend the speaker stand. It was therefore changed from a shell-like structure to a solid.
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The first version of #3D-Fi speakers are spherical (180 mm diameter) full-range loudspeakers with 3 liter internal volume. The box is vented with two rectangular ports on both sides. The ports act as stiffeners and also give more space to assemble the connectors and amplifier inside the enclosure. Internal wall stiffeners are used in order to maximize internal volume as opposed to simply increasing wall thickness, since a small external size is typically desired while internal volume needs to be high enough for the driver to work properly. We use bitumen paint to both seal the enclosure and also to add mass. The enclosure is printed as one part using UPM Formi3D cellulose composite filament. Metallic nuts are pressed on the backside of the flange to receive the machine threaded screws that hold the emitter.
Our setup uses a laptop PC as a source which allows equalizing the frequency response at the digital source. The signal is transferred via USB to a USB-powered DAC/pre-amplifier with volume control and a power switch. The analog signal is then transferred to one of the speakers where it is amplified using a two-channel chip amplifier board that is powered by a 65 W laptop charger. The amplified signal of the other channel is then transferred to the other speaker for reproduction. The design uses 6 cm full-range emitters without any analog filters or corrections.
A reference system with Genelec 8040 speakers was used for comparison. The sound of the 3D-Fi speakers is very unique and quite tricky to get the most out of. The full-range emitters are very sensitive to off-axis listening and the listening distance also changes the sound markedly. Even slightly tilting one’s head has an effect. It seems that finding the best spot is challenging and takes time. It’s hard to remember not to move an inch while listening to these speakers. However, all the effort pays off, because there is a reward at the end. The sound stage is unbelievably good and there is a huge presence from such a tiny speaker. The Genelecs sound distant and all over the place compared to the very precise and point-like sound of the 3D-Fi speakers. Obviously the bass is not very deep and the sound pressure levels achievable with 6 cm cones is limited. On the other hand, they seem to tolerate significant bass boost without distortion and in normal listening the cone travel stays in check. Overall, a very difficult set of speakers to get into and they are quite picky with the type of music played, but once a good recording is found together with the right listening conditions…Bliss!
Acknowledgements: We wish to thank UPM for the materials and support. J-P Virtanen took the studio pictures and Markus Markkanen the ones in the library.