Embarking on an acoustic journey.
Design freedom of 3D printing allows for no geometric limitations.
Innovation is rarely without its challenges, however, and although Kwak received positive feedback from industry colleagues on his homemade effort, there was still a ways to go in developing a product that would, in his words, “bridge exquisite sound and art.” With the express purpose of developing an ultra-high-end audio system that would meet his exacting standards, Kwak founded Askja Audio in 2014. Beginning with perfecting the sound quality, Askja Audio began work with Swiss Fibertec, a company specializing in carbon fiber designs and composite molds. It became quickly apparent that the choice of materials, size, shapes and the manufacturing processes themselves presented a fundamental challenge. Namely, the manufacture of the hybrid amplifier’s unique design. To achieve a superior sound quality together with an aesthetically pleasing look, Askja’s designers realized the complex design of the large format amplifier incorporated an unusual curved shape that made it nearly impossible to manufacture traditionally.
Additionally, the amplifier was designed in multiple parts requiring joint assembly. The challenge here was that any imperfection would not only affect the look but also the vibratory continuity vital to achieving a perfect sound. For Kwak, wood and metal weren’t the answer and neither was traditional manufacturing. The sound company researched this challenge and discovered the design freedom of 3D printing would allow them to produce any shape they came up with, with no geometric limitations. “This capability proved to be the cornerstone to realizing the design and production of our hybrid amplifier, filters, and power supply unit,” said Kwak.
Needing a large build size, Askja Audio turned to the Stratasys Fortus 900mc 3D printer, a system capable of producing very large, complex parts. They used ULTEM 9085 resin and ASA materials which gave them the dimensional stability and toughness to enable the audio signal to travel in the electronic components without mechanical distortion from the enclosure. Any distortions can alter the electronic qualities of components and ultimately, sound quality. Askja was also able to redesign the complex part assemblies, consolidating them to just a few large parts.
“The Askja “Origin” hybrid amplifier is one of the biggest parts and features a complicated, unusually-shaped design – two issues that made it virtually impossible to produce via conventional methods. We were looking at several months’ wait and an incredible amount of expense just to produce the tooling,” Kwak said “Additive manufacturing allowed us to overcome tooling and traditional manufacturing limitations and produce unusually shaped parts on demand, cost-effectively. We had the parts produced and in our hands within several days – something that would have been physically impossible without Stratasys’ 3D printers.”
Finally, additive technology enabled Askja to add surface customization options for customers, without compromising the efficiency of the sound system. “...the use of additive manufacturing to permit clients to customize their own design is a tremendous asset,” said Kwak. “The use of Stratasys FDM 3D printing enables us to bring our creative design aspirations to reality and beyond that it also forms a great part of Askja’s unique selling proposition, as no other audio system companies have ever designed their final products with additive manufacturing.”