Upcycled Speaker

Brief

In your career you’ll often be working with specific pre-existing parts (specified by an engineering department, a client, or your own sourcing) that you have to make your design fit around. Begin by selecting a specific small product that you can disassemble. Model these components in SolidWorks. Once you have the components, design a new casing or housing for these parts. The housing should be an improvement on the original in some way.

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Process

After upgrading the iPod a few weeks ago, I decided to create a speaker for it. Initial ideas had the iPod and speaker in one integrated unit, but I quickly diverged from that idea. I began by digging through the electronic waste in the basement of the Design and Industry department and found a camera drive controller by Lafayette Instruments from what looks like the 80’s. After some research I found the company’s mission statement, written in 1968:

We are always open to constructive criticism and suggestions from our customers. It is our aim to build instruments of high quality and at a reasonable cost.

— Max Wastl

While I disagree that customers should have too much interaction with a company’s Design Process, their feedback is important, especially in the genesis of a company. The second part of that quote, on the other hand, is a value I too share. The controller is free from ornaments, true to its form, reminiscent of the Bauhaus. It seems like Max Wastl knew what he was doing, as the company is still around today.

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The housing is from a solid thickness of steel, with beautiful detail and precisely milled holes for ventilation. These will later act as speaker grille and enhance air flow and thus sound quality.

I began by sand-blasting the case, getting rid of the stains, rust and grey coating. After this, I spent hours polishing it to an almost-mirror finish, and then brushed it. We don’t have the facilities to anodise the metal, besides brushed steel looks nice.

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On Amazon, I bought the cheapest AC-powered desktop speakers. The sound was what I expected, but good enough for the scope of the project. Since the inside of the speaker is modular, I can always upgrade the speakers later, and add a battery, bluetooth module and handle.

I tore out the circuit (which was incredibly hard to remove from these speakers) and tested it to make sure I didn’t damage the circuit board. Everything was fine.

I then modelled a front panel from 3/4″ plywood. I 3D-milled a wavy surface from the block of wood, to create an organic shape contrasting with the sober and geometric steel housing. With the Haas CNC machine I drilled the exact hole pattern the box has on the back into the front grille, to tie the design together. I messed up on the front plate’s corner radius, but I can do it again in the future.

Then, I chose a volume dial. I found a drawer full of knobs and picked one.

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Finally, in SolidWorks, I made a bracket that holds the speakers onto the board inside the body. After printing those final parts, I assembled everything and put the speaker in the DAI Exhibition. I hooked up the iPod, looped the Black Keys’ Thickfreakness album and people loved it.

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Delivery

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