GENESIS OF A HEADPHONE (PART 3)

Tooling is the production bedrock of most consumer electronics products. If you want to make plastic, rubber or metal parts in high volumes, odds are you’re going to need one or more tools. In the simplest terms, we melt down the raw material, inject it into a cavity in the shape of the part we want and when the material cools, we have a part. In reality, every condition of that process has a direct impact on the part output.

Our requirements for the raw materials were focused on durability and appearance. The headband material especially needs to flex and bend with the shape of the users head while creating just the right amount of clamping force for a comfortable fit. Also, plastics often exhibit various surface defects after injection like sink marks and flash (that extra plastic flimsy stuff on the edge of parts that looks no bueno) so picking a quality raw material that would resist those issues from the beginning was important. The stuff we selected is a super-durable polyamide often used in optics. #veryrare

The temperature, pressure and duration of the injection cycle also play a big role in the quality of the parts. This was a process of refining to get the cycle just right as we had to have great output while considering the realities of production. Every additional second adds up in an assembly procedure when we’re talking about millions of units that need assembling. The procedure we settled on takes slightly longer but the difference in part output is fully worth the additional cycle time.

Textures are also incredibly important to a product with plastics in it. There are finishes that scream “janky” and finishes that exude “goddamn that’s dope”. Obviously the latter was the standard. That high-gloss, cheapo stuff that some of our competitors do wasn't going to cut it. With our designers, we chose just the right matte finishes that elevate the product to a super-premium experience. To achieve the desired texture in the tool we had our production partner employ a complex process that boils down to etching very precisely the texture pattern into the steel of the tool with acid. This was definitely done at their facility.

Minor tweaks in the tooling would continue right up until mass production but with a solid set of first iteration tooling finished, we moved on to prototyping.

Imran