Sand Dollar Earbud Holder
Made by Bobbie Soques
A 3D-printed circular earbud wrapper holder designed to look like a sand dollar.
Created: April 30th, 2018
With this project, I intended to design and create a headphone/earbud holder that I can take with me everywhere. My earbuds are always getting tangled when I shove them into my pocket or backpack (or purse, etc.), and I while I have headphone wrappers, I don't use any of them because it takes too long to wrap and unwrap the headphones from around them. So, I wanted a headphone holder that I could easily put my earbuds onto and take off of, fit in my pocket, and keep my earbuds untangled.
Like I said before, many existing earbud holders require time-consuming wrapping and unwrapping of the cords around the holder. I looked for earbud holders that didn't involve wrapping, but they mostly seemed to involve wrapping leather or another flexible material around already-bundled earbuds, like the one pictured below (from this Etsy shop).
If I was going to 3D print my earbud holder, it looked like I was going have to use wrapping anyway. So I looked into existing designs for 3D printed earbud holders, and for any that had minimal wrapping or let you remove the earbuds without having to unwind them. I was inspired by ALittleSlow's Fast Release Earbud Wrap Designer v2.4 on Thingiverse, which is simple and designed to quickly release the earbuds by simply removing the last loop with the headphone jack.
I was inspired by not only ALittleSlow's method of "fast release," but also how they created multiple options for earbud wrapping by putting simple slots around all the edges of the holder. I thought my headphone holder would also benefit from creating multiple directions and ways to wrap earbuds, so that I do it that much faster.
I came up with a circular shape soon after. Earbuds, even when wrapped, can slip easily off a convex surface without having to be unwound--unlike a convex shape, like the right side of the headphone holder pictured above, which holds the earbuds in place. On top of that, a circular holder will fit easier into my pocket with catching on anything or stabbing me in the leg.
After sketching the circular holder with four different slots, I realized that it reminded me of a sand dollar. I had been thinking of maybe giving it a flower design before that, but I liked the sand dollar aesthetic better, since it incorporates the existing shape and design. I used the sand dollar picture below as the basis for my final design.
I sketched many different possibilities for the holder: different shapes, slot positions, slot shapes, etc. As part of my sketches, I considered how the earbuds would be wrapped around each design, not just the design itself. In the end, I decided on the design pictured below--the circle with four slots around the edge, with the sand dollar pattern in the middle. I grabbed a ruler and decided the diameter should be 2.5 inches, a good size to hold in a hand and put in a pocket.
Before I started modeling in Fusion 360, I wanted to make a simple prototype out of cardboard to make sure that my wrapper idea would work without having to wait to 3D print it. Early on, I tried wrapping my headphones around the closest thing to my design at hand--a small tape measure--and the cords kept slipping off as I wrapped it. I made a cardboard prototype to see if changing the texture of the object, from a slick metal to a rough cardboard, would help keep the cords in place.
I found that while the rougher surface helped, the cords still kept slipping off, and I had to hold them in place while I wrapped the earbuds, which was difficult. So, I added two additional slots to hold the top of the earbuds in place while I wrap. I also realized that the cord slots would have to be exactly the width of the cords--or smaller--to effectively hold them in place, so I measured their width with a pair of calipers. At the widest, the headphone cords are approximately 2 mm wide, so that's how wide I made the slots.
After that, the modeling was fairly straightforward--I simply made a circle in Fusion, created the slots using line and arc tools and mirroring them across center axes, and then extruded the sketch. For the sand dollar engraving, I used splines and mirroring to sketch the shapes, and then cut that halfway into the holder. After that, I sent the STL file to the NVBots queue, and it printed without issue on the first try.
I rendered the headphone holder on a "dry lakebed" environment, because it's a sand dollar and they didn't have a beach background. Ideally, the holder would be made out of a white or similarly light-colored plastic (to look more like a sand dollar). I rendered it from two angles because, due to its flat nature, it's hard to get a good idea of the size of the holder while still showing off the engraving, in a single picture.
I'm fairly proud of my final product. The 3D printed object looks almost exactly like its model, save for a few seams from the printing process, and it holds my headphones as expected. I can, in fact, easily slip the headphones off the circular shape without having to unwind it (except for the end of the cord holding the earbuds in place). It fits nicely in my hand and I can slip it into my pocket easily.
It doesn't look very nice--there are visible lines, seams, and gaps from the printing. The holder could use some sanding and painting to finish it. And, unfortunately, it doesn't actually solve the problem of keeping my earbuds untangled, and of not having to wrap them to store them. When I slide the earbuds off the holder, they're still tangled. But this isn't a problem that the industry has been able to solve either--so I don't feel too bad about not being able to solve it myself.