Streamlined Roll to Roll headphones feature printed electronics
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Maxime Loiseau's streamlined headphones feature printed electronics

New York 2015: design student Maxime Loiseau has created a set of prototype headphones that transmit sound through printed electronics.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

Loiseau, a student at the École Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle (ENSCI) in Paris, created the Roll to Roll Headphones using a technique of the same name.

Roll-to-roll processing – also known as web processing, reel-to-reel processing or R2R – is a method of creating electronic devices on a roll of flexible plastic or metal foil. It involves printing complex circuits made from thin-film transistors and other components onto substrates.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

Loiseau's headphones use these printed circuits instead of wires to streamline the design and reduce the amount of components needed to build each earpiece.

"We're working with simplified elements, efficient materials and processes, where technology is often the material itself, rather than an assemblage of material," said Loiseau.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

The headband and casing for the earpieces are formed from a continuous plastic strip, which is laser cut from a flat sheet. Two layers of the material encase and protect the remainder of the components.

Each earpiece comprises eight elements, including foam, netting, thermoformed plastic, a metal hoop, thermo-welded tabs and the speaker.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

The latter is based around a piezoelectric cell – which moves according to electrical signals – that vibrates a plastic sheet held in place by a rigid frame.

The speaker produces sound comparable to conventional headphones, despite the fact that the plastic surface is only one millimetre thick.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

By reducing the number of moving parts and simplifying the assembly, Loiseau hopes that the designs will be more durable and easier to produce.

"Roll to roll allows you to be extremely efficient with material used and processes," the designer said. "Everything can be produced on the same production line. The project is a reflection on the economy of processes, materials and means in electronic devices production."

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

Loiseau has also taken the opportunity to revisit the visual design of the headphones, so their aesthetic reflects their production and assembly.

Embossed controls on the side of one earpiece allow the user to play, pause and control the volume of the track. A power button is located on the opposite ear.

Roll to Roll headphones by Maxime Loiseau

"This simplicity is observed in the design and composition of the object," Loiseau said. "Parts of the object become signs, legible, like a graphic composition. It is to explore how these techniques influence the formal vocabulary of the object, made of strata, and superimposed layers."

Variations of the prototype were showcased at Wanted Design Brooklyn during NYCxDesign – New York's annual design festival – earlier this month.