“When we decided to build NightHawk, we knew it had to be something special—it had to have a real reason to exist because no one needs another ordinary headphone.”Skylar Gray, headphones Designer & Engineer.
Dre’s Beats did for headphones what the iPod did for the portable player. Now, Apple own both. Music-on-the-move is big money. Today, most of us make money by our feet and eyes, as commuters between computers. Many screen-agers would perhaps find a life without music-on-the-move difficult to imagine as life without screen-culture: TV-screen, gaming-screen, smartphone-screen, tablet-screen and more. Beats set a fashion standardisation of cost-quality-cool for headphones, next comes diversification. A fashion passes. When the Beats fashion passes, will NightHawk by AudioQuest – named a 2015 CES Innovation Awards Honoree for Headphones and 2015 CES Winner of Eco-Design & Sustainable Technologies – be one of the high quality headphone sets to redefine music-on-the-move?
NightHawk are ‘phones that use 3D printing for an intergral music quality enhancing part. AudioQuest, the company behind the headphones share that NightHawk’s earcups are made from “a revolutionary new material known as Liquid Wood—actual wood that has been combined with reclaimed plant fiber, heated, liquefied, and processed in such a way that it can be injection molded.” A loose equivelant of the polymer-woods that are used in home 3D printing now, such as Laywood. Analogies aside, the real piece for our attention here is the biomimetic grille of this portable tech, which is, somewhat poetically, but entirely pragmatically, inspired by the underlying structure of butterfly wings.
For the butterfly this is an intricate diamond-shaped latticework that diffuses light waves to create iridescence. In the NightHawk headphones, the grille’s lattice diffuses sound and overcomes distortions in resonance to augment musical quality. Given the complexity of the pattern, NightHawk’s grille can only be created using 3D printing. For this the AudioQuest team turned to 3D printing service provider Sculpteo for some high quality Selective Laser Sintering.
Skylar Gray explained on the Scultpeo blog how crucial 3D printing has been for their new headphone: “A grille like NightHawk’s, with its intricate diamond cubic latticework, couldn’t have been made five years ago. The only way it could be created is through today’s advanced 3D printing. So, from the very start, we intended for NightHawk’s grille to be 3D printed. Designing with 3D printing in mind is quite liberating because there are far fewer restrictions and boundaries, enabling otherwise impossible forms and complexity…”
There is almost nothing about this headphone set that suggests anything other than near perfection. From the sleek mahogany looking Liquid Wood aesthetic with its acoustic quality and lightweight ergonomic fit — to the innovative patent-pending weighting distribution mechanism with its comfort augmenting and distraction diminishing design. NightHawk shows 3D printing in action, where advanced manufacturing processes push product design almost to high art.