162: Headphone Stand

This month’s project is unique on 52Lasers; it’s the first to feature 3D printing done on our own in-house printer! It still has a laser-cut component, though, so I promise I’m not completely betraying the cause!

I bought a new pair of wireless headphones recently so that I could work in the noisy laser studio without being tethered to the computer, but I didn’t really have anywhere to store them when not in use. There were several headphone stands for sale out there on the market, but I knew it was something that could be 3D printed fairly easily, and I was looking for a decent project to test out a 3D printer we recently acquired, the Rostock Max v3.

Printing a “raft” for the stand model

I really wasn’t planning on modeling my own stand, and thankfully I was already familiar with Thingiverse, a popular maker resource with positively gobs of 3D printing models available. After some digging around, I landed on a remix of a popular Makerbot stand model by designer Théo Fabre. This design would print easily in two parts, and added a slide-in panel that I could laser-cut out of clear cast acrylic.

A failed 3D print showing off the latticework inside

I’ve printed a few smaller pieces on the Rostock so far, but mostly for calibration purposes. I also hadn’t invested in any filament yet, so the only material I had on hand was a gifted box of compound wood filament. It took a few tries to get the model to print, which was mostly down to dialing in settings for the wood compound filament compared to the standard PLA the system was designed for.

Amusingly enough, the layer thickness and orientation of the pieces on the print bed meant that some portions of the surface had a texture similar to woodgrain. I hoped some of this texture would survive through sanding.

Detail shot of the sanded surface pre-stain

Yup! The wood compound PLA can be sanded! The finished model felt very much like plastic, until I used a 100 grit paper to roughen up the surface. After the sanding process the surface felt a little toothier, something approximating wood just a little bit more, but it was still plastic. It reminded me of the surface texture of those park benches made from recycled plastic grocery bags.

Pieces drying after the first coat was applied

On a whim, I opened up a really old can of a dark shade of wood polystain. Yup! The wood compound PLA can be stained! I gave the stand one coat and wasn’t happy with the results. I would later learn that it was partially because polyurethane “stain” hybrids aren’t really absorbed like stains in the first place, instead just coating the surface in the stain color. I ended up sanding the top coat of polystain, which gave the otherwise solid chocolate block look a kind of distressed effect that made it look just a little bit like wood again.

Small 3D printed dowel rods hold the two pieces together

For the acrylic insert, I used a very thin 1/32″ clear cast acrylic. I believe Théo 3D printed his hex design insert in the original remix, but I felt incorporating a laser-cut element was essential in order to consider this blog post legitimate! Coincidentally, the Pixelaser branding design uses a hexagon pattern too, though it’s based on the honeycomb downdraft table used in most of my laser-cutting projects.

The finished stand holding my wireless headphones

Despite the material not really feeling much like wood, and the stain not really enhancing the coincidentally wooden texture of the 3D print, the finished model as photographed somehow conveys the intended effect. If you’re just glancing at it and not scrutinizing the obviously-abused surface coat, you might actually think it’s just a dark stained wood! But then you touch it and the masquerade is over. Either way, I’ve got a great new place to store my new headphones and a hybrid 3D/laser project under my belt!

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