Qbees headphone cable accessories
Jason Palmer's invention are customisable clips for your headphone cable
Most of the 3D printing news we see these days is about the direct manufacture of end use parts but lest we forget where this industry has its roots? Planted firmly in the mature fertilised earth that is prototyping.
A nice story of how the 3D printing hype in the mainstream media has spawned a spout of entrepreneurship comes from Qbees, a UK based fashion accessory start-up aiming to cash in on the prevalence of headphone cables that have taken over the world.
Founder Jason Palmer was sat on a stationary train in 2009 and spotted people from all walks of life, with all types of fashion and styles, all wearing the same white Apple earphones. He had what he thought was his eureka moment there and then, what if he could create a fashion accessory that could be personalised and attached to the cable to add individual’s own unique style to their homogenous earphone cables?
Alas, as with many ideas of this kind the eureka moment was extinguished by the extortionate costs of prototyping, Qbees were put on ice….
“In 2012 I was reading a copy of Stuff magazine and there was a tiny little article on 3D printing, it made me wonder if I could resurrect my idea.” Explained Jason. “So, being a strong believer in local production, I Googled 3D printing in London and found Nick Allen at 3DPRINTUK (Ed. Interestingly, Nick Allen told TCT that he chose the name 3DPRINTUK in order to get to the top of Google. Worked). I sent him a pdf of my woefully inadequate design and he put me in touch with Mark Little of Luma3Dprint.”
With the help of Luma3Dprint and 3DPRINTUK’s four prototypes it was time to head for production. “3D printing is great for prototyping but for these actual products, it wasn’t cost effective for us to be 3D printing the end parts. Fortunately Mark and Luke (Vos, co-founder) at Luma3Dprint were great at sourcing the factory for the moulds and it is going very well.”
Jason was quick to stress that this is something the 3D printing community does well, they don’t just leave you they guide through every step of the process. “As an average Joe with a good idea how do you get your product to market? When you have people like this, who all want to help each other grow, I think you’re on a roll. What it does is brings manufacturing back to the people.”
Two years and one month after that initial conversation with Nick and Mark, Qbees is now a live and operating brand and product. “Without 3D printing there was absolutely no way I could have ever started this business, the first quote I had just for prototyping was about £7,000 we didn’t pay more than £700 over the entire prototyping process.”
Prototyping has long been the ‘killer application’ for 3D printing and it will remain at the core of the industry for a long time.